Mass. health officials urge FDA to end policy that keeps gay men from giving blood

The policy, which they call discriminatory, originates from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Donations of blood and platelets decreased during the pandemic. Mike Simons, Tulsa World

Massachusetts health officials have joined others in a letter urging the FDA to get rid of a policy that effectively bans gay and bisexual men, as well as other queer persons, from giving blood, the Boston Herald reported Monday.

The letter comes as the nation is facing its worst blood shortage in a decade, the newspaper wrote.

The health officials have signed on to a letter to the commissioner of the FDA to toss out its 90-day blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with other men, the Herald reported.

This policy stems from the era of the AIDS epidemic, and used to be even more restrictive, according to the Human Rights Campaign.


Originally, it banned men who have sex with men from ever giving blood. Then, in 2015, it changed to banning them from giving blood within a year of having sex with another man. Since 2020, it bans them from giving within 90 days of having sex with another man.

“There is no credible evidence that the 90-day MSM (men who have sex with men) blood donation deferral period improves the safety of the nation’s blood donation supply,” North Carolina health officials wrote to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.

“And therefore, the continuation of this policy serves only to further stigmatize an already marginalized demographic group and unnecessarily restricts the eligible donor population during a time of extraordinary need in the U.S. The current policy is ineffective, unnecessary, and discriminatory.”

The Massachusetts health officials who joined the letter include Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke, the Herald reported.

Other states supporting North Carolina’s letter were Connecticut, New York, California, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, and Kentucky, the Herald reported. The director of the D.C. Department of Health also signed on.

“The FDA requires that all blood donations undergo nucleic acid testing for HIV, a test which can detect HIV within two weeks following infection,” the letter states.


“Consequently, the risk of HIV-infected blood entering donation pools is negligible,” they added. “This diagnostic screening should be paired with an individual risk-based assessment based on our robust knowledge of how HIV is transmitted, and not discriminatorily applied to an entire group of individuals.”

The American Red Cross has voiced its support for ending the policy as well.

The Herald reported that the American Medical Association has also urged the FDA to remove its 90-day blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with other men.


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