Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01) and three of his colleagues from the U.S. House of Representatives are leading the charge to end an outdated and discriminatory policy concerning blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). Cicilline along with Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) with the support of 142 other members of the House penned a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging an end to the current policy, a blanket three-month blood donation deferral period for MSM. In its place, the Congressional representatives suggest a transition to a policy with “individual risk assessment to determine donor eligibility.”
The letter, which was released on February 25 and can be found in full on Congressman Cicilline’s Congressional web page, explains:
“The existence of any deferral period tied to MSM further stigmatizes HIV/AIDS as a ‘gay disease’ and members of the LGBTQI+ community as ‘unclean.’ Sexual contact between two men is not listed as a risk factor for HIV/AIDS by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, yet the FDA directs any male donors with a ‘history in the past three months of sex with another man’ to defer donation for three months. This policy uses sexual contact between two men as a proxy for unsafe sex that is likely to contaminate the blood supply. This inaccurate association contributes to homophobia, not a safe blood supply.”
Earlier this year, 22 U.S. Senators, led by openly lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), sent a letter to the FDA and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra calling for an end to the archaic policy. In June 2021, the United Kingdom shifted its policy to allow blood donations from gay and bisexual men who have had the same sexual partner for three months, and in January, it was announced France will allow blood donations from gay and bisexual men without any discriminatory restrictions. The new policy goes into effect for France in March.