Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HHS Moves to Review Outdated Lifetime Gay Blood Donor Deferral

[Sources: Senators John Kerry (D-Mass) & Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) , GMHC]

LifeLube today applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for outlining concrete steps toward ending the outdated, discriminatory lifetime ban on gay men from donating blood.

In a question-and-answer document, HHS described four areas of necessary study to allow a further review of the existing policy, and implementation of the June 2010 recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA).

These areas include:

•    How the risk of blood transmissible diseases in the current donor population relate to the risk factors in donors;

•    The root cause of quarantine release errors (QRE), the accidental release of blood not cleared for use that potentially put the blood supply at risk;

•    If potential donors correctly understand the current questionnaire and if men who have sex with men (MSM) would comply with modified deferral criteria; and

•    If alternative screening strategy (e.g. pre- and/or post-qualifying donation infectious disease testing) for MSM (and potentially other high-risk donors) would assure blood safety while enabling data collection that could demonstrate safe blood collection from a subset of MSM or other currently deferred donors.


Highlighting what some of our state officials and partners have done for this effort thus far, we want to continue to fight to end discriminatory ban.

In February 2010, GMHC released a comprehensive report titled "A Drive For Change: Reforming U.S. Blood Donation Policies," which details the FDA's current blood donation guidelines and provides recommendations for alternative guidelines that emphasize behavior-based deferrals. In June 2010, GMHC provided testimony at the ACBSA meeting held to review the MSM policy. GMHC has long advocated for consistently applied standards of rigorous, scientifically-based blood safety, contributing to an increased pool of blood donors

In June 2010, Mark Skinner spoke on behalf of the American Plasma Users Coalition (A-PLUS) at the ACBSA meeting held to review the MSM policy.  A-PLUS is a coalition of national patient organizations created to address the unique needs of over 125,000 patients with rare diseases that use life-saving plasma protein therapies and are dependent on blood plasma therapies to lead healthy.  A-PLUS has acknowledged that the scientific basis for the permanent deferral requires review, and previously indicated that there are a number of factors which should be fully evaluated before making a revision to the policy. Such evaluation and research could lead to a policy revision that maintains or enhances the safety of blood and blood products.

Senator John Kerry has been a longtime advocate for updating this discriminatory policy.  Last year, he wrote two separate letters to the FDA urging them to abolish the policy along with an op-ed on the ban in Bay Windows, New England’s largest LGBT newspaper.

Congressman Mike Quigley spear-headed an op-ed co-authored by seven House Democrats urging HHS to revise its blood donation policy.  Quigley and Kerry also wrote also a bi-cameral letter to HHS calling for an end to the ban and submitted testimony to HHS for a two-day hearing reviewing the policy.

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