For Immediate Release
ACLU Urges FDA to Apply Science, Not Discrimination, to Blood Donor Policy
WASHINGTON - The American Civil
Liberties Union submitted comments to the Advisory Committee on Blood
Safety and Availability urging the committee to reassess the Food and
Drug Administration's policy (FDA) on blood donation by gay and bisexual
men. The FDA policy, enacted in 1985, recommends that men who have had sex with another man even one
time since 1977 should be banned from donating blood. In its
comments, the ACLU recommended that the committee base its policy on
factual evidence, rather than sexual orientation.
"The FDA should be basing its policy on facts
and not stereotypes," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU
Washington Legislative Office. "If gay and bisexual donors can be
screened for donation without causing risk to our nation's blood supply,
they should be. The FDA's policy wrongly implies the mere fact of
sexual activity with another man poses a risk of HIV transmission. The
advisory committee must review its policy and follow science in this
issue. To do otherwise would be discriminatory and unconstitutional."
Gay and bisexual men, intravenous drug users,
people who have had sex for money and people who have tested positive
for HIV disease are currently the only groups of people banned
from donating blood. Though this policy excludes all gay and bisexual
men regardless of their individual sexual histories or HIV risk, other
individuals who are also at increased risk for HIV, including people who
have heterosexual sex with someone who they know to be HIV positive or
people who have had sex with a commercial sex worker, are prevented from
donating blood for only a year.
While there is no constitutional right to
donate blood, government policy regulating the blood donation field must
not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation by adopting
differing standards for conduct that poses similar risks, based solely
on the identity of those engaging in such conduct. In other words, gay
and bisexual men cannot constitutionally be singled out for differential
treatment solely because of their sexual relationships.
"Eligibility for donating blood should be based on scientific
evidence, not stigmatizing and outdated stereotypes," said James Esseks,
Director of the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project. "We know that many
straight people have HIV. If the existing screening methods are
sufficient to protect the blood supply from straight people with HIV,
then the government needs a really good reason for having a different
rule for gay and bisexual men. It's not clear that it does."
To read the ACLU's comments, go to: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/aclu-
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.