Lift Restrictions on Blood & Plasma Donation for Men Who Have Sex with Men

Lift Restrictions on Blood & Plasma Donation for Men Who Have Sex with Men

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!

NYC-area medical & doctoral students and physicians started this petition to U.S. Food and Drug Administration and

In Short: The reduction of the deferral period to donate blood for men who have sex with men (MSM) to 3 months is a step too short in the right direction. This change reminds us how difficult in can be to overcome decades of social bias. Given current scientific evidence, a deferral period based solely on sexual preference is unnecessary and, at large, reflects the continuing stigma against the LGBTQ+ community. This is a plea to the FDA to lift this ban and acknowledge that prejudice cannot continue to be shielded by notions of “greater public safety.”

Background: The FDA has a longstanding history of allowing stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community to guide their policy changes. The first, lifelong ban on MSMs was placed in 1985, when primitive HIV screening tests were emerging and the virus had not been fully characterized. Ironically, due to national discomfort with discussing what was circulating as the "gay disease," "gay cancer," and officially "gay-related immune deficiency," the FDA was too slow to implement a then needed ban, despite pleas from the scientific community and the CDC. As a result, unchecked HIV transmissions cost countless lives. Now, again, due to the lack of advocacy for MSMs within health leadership, the FDA has remained sluggish in repealing a now unnecessary and impractical deferral policy. It was largely thanks to advocacy efforts that, in 2015, the FDA relaxed the ban to a one-year deferral period. Then, on April 3rd of 2020, again under pressure from various organizations and individuals in light of the dwindling blood supply due to COVID-19, the FDA further shortened the deferral period to 3 months. This current policy even restricts plasma donations from COVID+ patients, thereby limiting the development of possible therapeutic options.

Evidence: Current HIV testing technologies have reduced the risk of HIV-contaminated blood transfusions to 1 per 8-to-12 million donations, compared to 1 per 153 units in 1987. Per the CDC, two HIV screening tests are conducted on all donated blood samples, which together have a virtually 100% sensitivity (meaning no false negatives), with a window period of around 10 days. 

Why This Matters: In the most recent recommendation, the FDA also states, “In instances where a donor has asserted a change in gender identification, medical directors may exercise discretion with regard to donor eligibility.” These restrictions further welcome discrimination in a time when the frameworks and practices of gender and sexuality are changing, making it impractical and inappropriate to police people based on such imposed labels. As we continue to hear of individuals who are eager to donate blood or plasma to help save lives get turned away, it is imperative that we demand FDA officials to truly scrutinize why they are making the current recommendations. Is it based on evidence, or is it merely due to a lack of motivation to push against the inertia of prejudice? 

Dear FDA, you have failed us through inaction or apathy: first in 1982, second in 2015, and third in 2020. Currently, MSMs continue to be barred from donating due to the months of logistical overhaul that blood banks must undertake. Changing forms of discrimination to seemingly smaller forms of discrimination is not a solution we will accept. Please lift the current 3-month ban (or a ban of any duration that may follow) on men who have sex with men and remove all mention of gender and sexual orientation from blood and plasma donation guidelines. Instead, please implement deferral strategies based on individual risk assessments and/or gender/sexual orientation neutral screening, as countries like Italy, Spain, and Argentina have successfully employed. This issue is not only a matter of promoting public health, but also one of ensuring justice.

From: Members of the New York medical community at large. We, a collective group of doctors, nurses, medical students, researchers, and staff all stand behind the movement to repeal this outdated policy. We invite others around the nation to sign and join us in this effort.

Next Steps: With enough support, we hope to formally file this petition as a comment to the FDA’s Revised Recommendations (FDA-2015-D-1211) released on April 3, 2020 here

References:

  1. Haire, B., et al. (2018). "Blood donor deferral for men who have sex with men: still room to move." Transfusion 58(3): 816-822.
  2. Hans, R. and N. Marwaha (2014). Nucleic acid testing-benefits and constraints. Asian J Transfus Sci. 8: 2-3.     
  3. Karamitros, G., et al. (2017). The ban on blood donation on men who have sex with men: time to rethink and reassess an outdated policy. Pan Afr Med J. 27.
  4. National Center for HIV/AIDS, V. H., STD, and TB Prevention (2016). "Laboratory Procedure Manual: HIV Antibody / HIV-1/HIV-2 Differentiation Assay."          
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). "Blood Safety."         
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration. (2020). "Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products."

Other Resources:

 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!