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Senators call for ban to be lifted on Gay blood donation
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Senators call for ban to be lifted on Gay blood donation

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

On March 5, 18 U.S. senators said the time has come to change a policy that imposes a lifetime ban on donating blood for any man who has had Gay sex since 1977.

'Not a single piece of evidence supports the ban,' said Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who joined 16 other Democrats and independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in writing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

In the letter, the lawmakers point out that the science has changed considerably since the ban was established in 1983 during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Today, donated blood must undergo two different and highly accurate tests that make the risk of tainted blood entering the blood supply virtually zero, they said.

The senators say that hospitals and emergency rooms are in urgent need of blood products, and yet, "healthy blood donors are turned away every day due to an antiquated policy and our blood supply is not necessarily any safer for it."

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) officials say they are hopeful that the policy, last reviewed in 2006, will change.

"The goal is to have policies in place that are based on science rather than any discriminatory idea about our [LGBT] community," said Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel for HRC.

In 2006 the FDA issued a statement in regards to the policy saying it was medically and scientifically unwarranted. "While the FDA appreciates concerns about perceived discrimination, our decision to maintain the deferral policy is based on current science and data and does not give weight to a donor's sexual orientation," read the statement.

However, people with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder, support the continuation of the policy. Hemophiliacs who require periodic transfusions were among the most at-risk of contracting the virus before screening techniques were improved to ensure blood was HIV-free.

Kerry compared the effort to lift the blood donation ban to legislation he backed in 2008 to end the law banning people with HIV from traveling and immigrating to the U.S. The travel ban was lifted in 2009.

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