President Biden instantly permits homosexual and bi males to donate blood
The Biden administration has proven goodwill from the beginning as an LGBTQ-friendly administration. Biden named first cupboard member in U.S. historical past, expanded LGBTQ + non-discrimination protections for federal workers, and rolled again 4 years of Trump administration anti-LGBTQ govt actions, such because the ban on transgender navy service.
These measures have been a breath of contemporary air, however the Biden administration ought to go additional by instantly rescinding the 30-year ban on males who’ve intercourse with males (MSM) from donating blood and plasma. Biden has the facility to behave unilaterally on this subject, with out enter from Congress, by merely updating this outdated US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) coverage.
Within the early Nineteen Nineties, the FDA carried out a lifetime ban for MSM due to the elevated danger of buying HIV for this inhabitants. The lifetime ban was lifted in 2015, however changed with a one-year celibacy rule for donating blood from MSM. In April of final yr, because the coronavirus raged throughout the nation, the FDA shortly diminished the requirement for MSM to solely three months. Whether or not it’s a yr or three months, it’s all the time discriminatory. Straight folks haven’t got to vow celibacy to donate blood.
The ban perpetuates a widely known stigma that homosexual and bisexual males have confronted for many years. As an alternative of implementing a ban on folks at excessive danger of contracting HIV, the FDA has chosen to give attention to excluding a group that has a protracted historical past of discrimination. It feeds dangerous tropes that homosexual males are sexually promiscuous, interact in harmful sexual exercise and usually are not relationship oriented. It’s an outdated and discriminatory directive primarily based on notion, not science.
It is true that HIV disproportionately impacts the LGBTQ + group, however that is not the entire story. In accordance with CDC, MSM accounted for 69% of the practically 38,000 new HIV diagnoses nationwide in 2018, whereas 24% have been attributable to heterosexual contact. Nevertheless, concern of blood contaminated with HIV isn’t needed. The FDA examines every unit of blood donated for infectious illnesses earlier than it enters the donation pool.
Since 2002, the FDA has used a speedy HIV antibody check that allows same-day outcomes. This know-how identifies the HIV virus inside weeks of publicity. In the course of the check, solely 12 of the 37,164,054 models screened examined seropositive, i.e. 1 in 3.1 million.
In 2014, the Williams Institute on the College of California, Los Angeles discovered that the obtainable blood provide in the US may improve by two to 4 p.c per yr if the MSM inhabitants have been in a position to donate. That is over half one million models of blood that can be utilized to save lots of lives. Current occasions, reminiscent of excessive winter circumstances and the coronavirus epidemic, have created a nationwide scarcity of donated blood and plasma; the time has come to carry this pointless ban. The FDA’s purpose needs to be to develop insurance policies that enable as many voters as attainable to donate wholesome blood. As an alternative, they selected to exclude total teams of individuals on the premise of stigma.
In December 2020, the FDA advert they are going to conduct a research on the advisability of implementing a risk-based questionnaire as an alternative of banning MSM donors. It will be a step in the best course, however the FDA has not introduced any timeline for finishing the research. ABC Information indicated that it may take till the tip of the yr. There isn’t any motive to attend that lengthy. A minimum of 17 different international locations, together with our neighbors in Mexico, haven’t any restrictions on homosexual and bisexual males who donate blood and plasma. It is time to act. The FDA ought to instantly implement a coverage primarily based on the chance introduced by every particular person, moderately than the dangerous stereotypes related to their group.
The Biden administration made nice strides for the LGBTQ + group within the first few weeks of its administration. Biden has the flexibility to proper this historic unsuitable, whereas sustaining the integrity of the circumstances of eligibility of blood donors. Biden made a imprecise promise to make sure that blood donation necessities are primarily based on science, not stigma. If he’s critical about this promise, he ought to instantly finish the ban primarily based on sexual orientation.
Kevin Eamon Muehleman is an MPA candidate on the NYU Wagner Graduate Faculty of Public Service.