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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
HHS moves to revisit Gay blood donor ban
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HHS moves to revisit Gay blood donor ban

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On July 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined concrete steps toward ending the outdated, discriminatory lifetime ban on Gay men donating blood.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill., 5th Dist.), two lawmakers who have championed the removal of the ban, applauded HHS's effort to do away with the current policy.

In a question-and-answer document requested by Kerry and Quigley, HHS laid out four final areas for additional study needed to implement a policy change.

'We've been working on this a long time in a serious way and I'm glad Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius responded with concrete steps to finally remove this policy from the books,' said Kerry. 'HHS is doing their due-diligence and we plan to stay focused on the end game - a safe blood supply and an end to this discriminatory ban.'

'This announcement by HHS means we're moving in the direction of finally ending this antiquated and discriminatory policy,' said Quigley. 'Senator Kerry and I will continue to push for a behavior-based screening process both in the name of fairness and a safer blood supply.'

'When these studies are complete, the Department is committed to a full evidence-based evaluation of the policy,' HHS wrote in the Q&A.

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. With Quigley, Kerry also authored 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.

The four final areas of study laid out by HHS include how the risk of blood-transmissible diseases in the current donor population relate to risk factors in donors; the root cause of quarantine release errors (the accidental release of blood not cleared for use); 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 collection of data that could demonstrate safe blood collection from a subset of MSM or other currently deferred donors.

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