US: Over 80 lawmakers call on Obama administration to end gay blood donation ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

More than 80 US congressional members on Monday called on the Obama administration to end the ban on gay men being allowed to give blood, calling it outdated.

Eighty-two lawmakers, including a Republican, signed a letter to the administration, saying that the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, should re-evaluate blood donation criteria, which currently includes a lifetime ban on gay men from giving blood.

“Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more than 30 years ago, the scientific community’s understanding of the virus has changed dramatically,” wrote the lawmakers.

“We have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, blood donation policy changes in other countries allowing [gay men] to donate, and opposition from our nation’s blood banks who have called the current ban ‘medically and scientifically unwarranted.'”

The lawmakers went on to say that the current policy turns away “healthy, willing donors”, despite serious blood shortages.

“Further, the existing lifetime ban continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men, and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination,” they said.

The letter did praise the Health and Human Services Department for conducting studies considering rule changes, but went on to criticise the department for taking too long, especially compared to other countries.

“We look forward to ending this outdated policy and moving forward with securing the nation’s blood supply in a scientifically sound manner,” the lawmakers wrote.

Eighteen Senators and 64 House members signed the letter, and Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming was the only Republican to sign on.

The American Medical Association (AMA) voted to reject the federal blanket ban in June.

The policy was introduced in 1983 in response to the AIDS outbreak, when little was known about HIV.

US Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren today urged for America to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

Senator Warren says she only learnt of the ban by speaking to a Boston resident who wanted to donate in the aftermath of the city’s bomb attack.