U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley ( D-Illinois ) and Rick Larsen ( D-Washington ) urged the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) to overturn the FDA's guidance on blood donation by men who have sex with men.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, Larsen and Quigley outlined the critical need for blood donations from all healthy donors, regardless of sexual orientation.
The letter states, "Cancelled blood drives and essential social distancing measures have caused a rapid decrease in blood supply. In our districts, hospitals treating patients with COVID-19 also are also experiencing blood shortages, limiting their ability to meet demand. Turning away willing donors because of outdated and discriminatory policies is damaging public health.
"We urge you to instruct the Blood Products Advisory Committee to immediately reconsider restrictions on donation by men who have sex with men, end this discriminatory practice and allow anyone who is otherwise eligible to donate and save lives."
Before 2015, the FDA maintained a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men. The FDA adjusted the policy in December 2015, to allow for blood donations from gay and bisexual menbut only from men who have abstained from sex for one year or more.
As of last week, nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to COVID-19, resulting in 86,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at workplaces, college campuses and schools.