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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 15, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 24
WA senators seek change in blood donation policy
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WA senators seek change in blood donation policy

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Washington's two U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, have signed on to a letter supporting a new policy on Gay blood donors.

The letter, initiated by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), is addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and expresses support for a new HHS pilot study on the matter.

The study is intended to review the policy that permanently bars men from donating blood if they have ever had sexual contact with another man, a rule that has been in place since the 1980s. Its stated purpose was to prevent transmission of HIV in blood transfusions, but critics say technological changes in blood testing have rendered the policy obsolete.

'I applaud Secretary Sebelius for launching this study to ensure no one is being turned away from blood donation based on outdated science,' Murray said in a statement.

'This marks another step in the push for equality and understanding for the LGBT community. I am hopeful the findings will reverse the current discriminatory policy and allow for healthy Americans to once again help in the effort to save lives through blood donation.'

Other signers include Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

'Recognizing the shortfalls of the current permanent deferral policy, and following the urging of many Members of Congress, HHS convened the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA) in June of 2010 to review the lifetime deferral requirement,' the letter states.

'The Advisory Committee concluded that the current ban on blood donation by Gay and Bisexual men is 'suboptimal' because it allows high-risk individuals to donate while prohibiting low-risk donors from contributing, and it should be changed as a result.'

The recognition that existing policy was inadequate prompted HHS to launch several studies on changing policy to allow low-risk Gay and Bi men to donate blood. The most recent pilot study is likely to conclude that national policy should be changed.

Kerry and Quigley have led Congressional efforts calling for a revised policy. Their first letter to HHS on the subject was sent in June 2010. That same month, the ACBSA reviewed the lifetime ban and recommended policy revisions.

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