The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Linsey Pecikonis, Equality California
PHONE: 323-848-9801 
CELL: 818-394-0947

Assemblymembers Bloom, Garcia and Low Join EQCA In Urging the FDA to Develop Blood Donation Policies Based on Risk Assessment

Los Angeles

Yesterday, AJR 16, authored by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Eduardo Garcia and Evan Low and sponsored by Equality California, was introduced in the State Assembly in response to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new blood donor guidelines that continue to discriminate against gay and bisexual men. The new proposed FDA guidelines would continue to prohibit blood donation from all sexually active gay and bisexual men. Specifically, all men who have had sex with another man within the past 12 months would be prohibited from donating blood. The resolution calls on President Barack Obama to encourage the Secretary of Health and Human services to direct the FDA to develop science-based guidelines that focus on risk-assessment of individuals instead of the arcane and discriminatory standards that continue to discriminate against gay and bisexual men.

"We are extremely disappointed that the FDA continues to pursue a path of pretend reform. Equality California stands alongside and thanks Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Eduardo Garcia and Evan Low in urging the FDA to repeal its current blood donation guidelines that continue to stigmatize and discriminate against gay and bisexual men," said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. "The proposed one-year deferral policy still prohibits all sexually active gay and bisexual men from giving blood based on their sexual orientation. So a gay man who has repeatedly tested negative for HIV and who is in a monogamous relationship is prohibited from giving blood, while others who engage in high risk behaviors are allowed to donate. This is simply unfair. The FDA should change course and do the hard work to develop risk-based blood donation policies based on modern science and individual behavior."

"While the DHHS and FDA action is an important first step in lifting the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men to donate blood, the current recommendation for a one-year deferral period for gay men is still discriminatory," said Assemblymember Evan Low. "I urge the departments to continue to explore safe alternative policies that would allow individuals in the LGBT community to donate blood as equal members of society."

"The 12 month deferral policy for gay and bisexual men to donate blood is ridiculous and not even based on science," said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. "Our resolution is about equality and that every single Californian should be treated fairly when donating blood to help save lives."

Equality California has advocated that the FDA replace antiquated blood donation guidelines that focus on sexual orientation with modern science-based guidelines that focus on risk factors associated with individual behavior. Outside of the United States, countries like Spain, Italy, Russia, Mexico and Portugal have adopted blood donation policies that utilize assessments of risk of an individual's behavior, instead of the sex of a person's sexual partners.

"The FDA's proposed one-year deferral policy continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men," said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. "Today's blood testing technology and screening techniques are reliable methods for preventing transfusion-related transmission of disease. A one-year deferral is unnecessary and not based on science."

"These guidelines would continue to prevent countless gay and bisexual men from making life-saving donations to the nation's blood supply," continued Zbur. "Equality California is redoubling its efforts to change this unfair policy, and we thank Assemblymember Bloom, Garcia and Low for standing with us and for their important leadership."

In October of 2014, Equality California launched a mobilization campaign to urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration to end the discriminatory lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men. Equality California's campaign called "Every Drop Counts" mobilized the LGBT community and its allies, who sent thousands of emails and letters to the FDA calling for an end to the ban. Equality California will continue to mobilize the LGBT community to call on the FDA to end this discriminatory ban. Equality California remains committed to working toward an outcome that minimizes the risk to our nation's blood supply and treats gay and bisexual men equally.

Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.