Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin issued the following statement on the announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that it will change its blood donation policy for gay and bisexual men from a lifetime ban to one requiring a year of abstinence prior to donating blood and will take steps to implement a national blood surveillance system.
“I am encouraged that the Obama Administration has taken this step forward because I have long fought to revise this outdated policy that is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Our goal is to replace this discriminatory, lifetime ban on blood donations by healthy gay and bisexual men with a policy based on individual risk. While this announcement represents needed progress, I remain concerned that it does not achieve our goal of putting in place a policy that is based on sound science and allows all healthy individuals to donate.
“The Administration must continue to work towards implementing blood donation policies based on individual risk factors instead of singling out one group of people and turning away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages. I look forward to seeing the Administration’s plans to continue this progress, and I stand ready to continue to work with them and my colleagues in Congress to achieve this goal.”
Last week, Senator Baldwin led over 75 members of Congress in calling on HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to end the outdated and discriminatory ban, and replace it by instituting a risk-based policy. (Legislators Call on HHS to End Discriminatory Blood Donation Policy, Implement Risk-Based Policies)
On June 18, 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution opposing the current lifetime ban as discriminatory and not based on sound science. Instead, the AMA supports new donation deferral policies that are based on an individual’s level of risk. The blood banking community, including the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers, has also long-supported a change in policy.