A letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, signed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and 19 other state attorneys general, asks the agency to lift its ban preventing gay and bi-sexual men from giving blood.
The request comes at a time when the nation’s blood supply is low, due to the pandemic.
The FDA currently recommends that men who have had sex with another man in the past three months not donate blood. The guidance was recently reduced from a 12-month waiting period earlier this month.
The letter asks the FDA to remove the waiting period altogether and enact a risk-based rule rather than one based on gender or sexual activity. Not doing so, the letter says, prevents a group of healthy individuals from donating blood at a time it is badly needed.
“It is time to end this dated, discriminatory practice, especially during an emergency when all Pennsylvanians want to play a part in keeping people in their communities safe and healthy,” said Shapiro. “Restrictions for blood donations should be based on fact-based risk factors, not discredited, homophobic presumptions about someone’s life.”
The FDA’s guidance originated in 1983 as a rule that banned gay or bisexual men from donating blood. The rule was changed to a 12-month waiting period in 2015.
Earlier this month, the American Red Cross announced that it has a critical blood shortage because of the decrease in drives and donations, noting that it only had a five-day supply of blood on hand.
Country wide cancellations of blood drives and donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly affected the nation’s supply of red blood cells, platelets and plasma.