“Blood is Blood” & Community Rally Against the FDA Policy Banning Gay Blood Donors
Western New Yorkers supporting the “Blood is Blood” mission were joined by Congressman Brian Higgins and representatives from The Pride Center of Western New York for a rally against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy that bans blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
In October 2015 Jordan Moll Vigrass visited a blood donation center prepared to give blood. Jordan, who is openly gay and has been in a committed relationship for 4 years, was refused as a blood donor after disclosing his sexual orientation during the questionnaire screening process. Outraged by the federal policy and disappointed by being refused the gift of providing lifesaving blood donations, Jordan started “Blood is Blood” to advocate for change.
Jordan states, “The FDA cannot just throw a blanket over a group of people and classify all gays as a risk. Not only is it discrimination but it is hurting people because it's harder to get the blood they need.”
In 1983 the FDA implemented a policy which creates a lifetime deferral for blood donations for gay and bisexual men. In December of 2014 Congressman Higgins joined other Members of Congress in sending a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services urging action on changing the blood donation criteria.
“The government’s unfounded policy is hurtful to the people being turned away solely based on sexual orientation and the millions of others who will be in need of a lifesaving blood donation,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Eligibility should be based on risk-based science rather than outdated, fear-based speculation.”
Earlier this year the FDA released a proposed recommendation that, when finalized, may revise the Agency’s position on gay blood donations from a lifetime ban to a one-year deferral. In July, Rep. Higgins and other members filed comments to the draft guidance urging the FDA to “embrace science, and also reject outdated stereotypes” by instead moving to a fully risk-based deferral system for blood donations. A final decision by the FDA is expected this month.
The Pride Center of Western New York Senior Director Matthew Crehan Higgins added, “The blood ban on gay donors was enacted in a different era, when virtually nothing was known about HIV detection and there was no effective treatment for those infected. A lot has happened since that time in our understanding of transmissibility, the development of effective treatment for those diagnosed, and incredibly sophisticated ways to determine whether a person is or is not HIV positive. Leaving the ban in place has a stigmatizing effect on our community and limits the potential to save lives through opening donation to a large group of people long banned. I am blood type A negative. Any time I hear there is a shortage of that type I feel the pull of the lost opportunity that presents, and I know for sure that I merely am one of very many.”
According to the Red Cross approximately 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States. All donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases before it is deemed acceptable and released to hospitals.