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Congressman Higgins Welcomes News That FDA is Planning to End Discriminatory Blood Donation Policies

New Guidelines Expected Soon

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) welcomed the long overdue news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to update its guidelines regarding blood donations, moving away from blanket, discriminatory rules banning donations from some gay and bisexual men. 

“Blood donation rules should be based on science, not stigma,” said Congressman Higgins. “Existing policy is degrading to viable donors and hurts our blood supply. We hope the FDA acts swiftly on making necessary changes.”

In 1983, during the initial wave of the AIDS epidemic, and before there was a good understanding of the disease, the FDA implemented a policy which banned blood and plasma donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). Since then, the FDA has revised the guideline twice, first changing the lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral from last same-sex sexual contact, and in April of 2020 changing it to a 3-month deferral. All donated blood and plasma is tested for HIV, hepatitis, COVID-19 and other infectious diseases before it is deemed acceptable and released to hospitals.

Other countries including Canada, France, Germany, Greece and the UK have removed biased deferral policies related to blood donations in recent years.

Jordan Moll-Vigrass, founder of Blood is Blood and a Western New Yorker added, "This is wonderful news not just for our LGBTQ+ community, as leaving policies in place like the outdated MSM Blood Ban leads to systematic stigma and discrimination but even better news for the United States as the FDA updating its policies to reflect the best science available to ensure that the maximum number of people who can donate safely do so will save thousands of lives!”

Higgins advocacy on this issue dates back years: rallying with local advocates and issuing a public statement in Buffalo in 2015, standing in opposition alongside his colleagues in the House of Representatives on World Blood Donor Day in 2016, sending a letter to the FDA along with fellow members of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus in 2020, and again pushing the FDA to act on several occasions earlier this year.