WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and advocacy groups are urging regulators to overturn a 25-year ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
Beginning today, a Health and Human Services Department advisory panel is scheduled to meet for two days to consider ending the ban, which forbids men who have had sex with men from giving to the nation’s blood banks. Instead, donations from these men may be permitted under restrictions similar to those faced by other contributors.
Behind the curb was concern that diseases associated with high-risk sexual behavior can be spread through donated blood. Science has advanced to the point that blood centers can safely screen out donations infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said Representative Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who opposes the ban.
“By clinging to a 1980s view of the world, we are perpetuating a stereotype,’’ Quigley said yesterday at a news briefing.
The donation policy was started in 1985, during the beginning of public awareness about AIDS. Lifting the ban for men who have had sex with men, and putting in place a 12-month waiting period for those who had engaged in risky sexual behavior, would add about 90,000 pints of blood to the 16 million donated annually, according to a study by the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy, at the UCLA School of Law.
Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, said there were no plans to try passing legislation to overturn the ban. Instead, opponents of the measure are asking Health and Humans Services officials to do so, as they could under current law.
“We’re trying to rattle their cage a little bit so they do this now instead of continuing to stall on this,’’ Weiner.