The Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12th shocked not only those from Orlando Florida or the LGBTQ community but the nation. Thousands of people from all over the United States reached out asking how they could help, some feeling helpless reaching out from thousands of miles away. The solution for many was to donate blood but some of the would-be donors were turned away.
Although the blood was needed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defers blood donations for men who have had sex with a man even one time during the 12-month period leading up to the blood donation. This left many willing donors turned away simply because of this guideline.
On Monday, July 11, 2016, California State Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris sent a letter urging Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf to change this guideline, citing new safeguards in place with modern technology. “Increasingly sophisticated understanding of HIV allows the FDA to implement alternative non-discriminatory, scientifically sound methods for ensuring the safety of the nation’s blood supply,” the Attorney General’s press release said.
In 2015 this guideline that previously had a lifetime ban on any man who has had sex with a man was changed to the new 12-month period blood donation deferral. This guideline still, according to State Attorney General Harris will act to stop most gay and bisexual men from donating blood, in turn limiting the donor pool. “As we work to achieve the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law, it is our duty to amend or repeal policies that keep us anchored to a shameful past. To those who suffer under lingering injustices and indignities, it is no answer to say: ‘Be patient and wait.’ And with regards to the FDA’s guidance, the time for patience is over,” the Attorney General added.
Harris is asking the FDA guidelines not to overlook risks, but to identify the actual risk that the donor may carry HIV. This, in turn, will help with growth to the blood supply and will help those willing to donate to not be wrongfully discriminated against . “Understanding the FDA’s responsibility for maintaining the safety of the nation’s blood supply and your steadfast commitment to implementing data-driven policies, I call on you to consider less categorical risk-based donation policies that will ensure blood safety,” stated Attorney General Harris.
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