Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05) along with other House members and LGBT allies on World Blood Donor Day to call on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to end its policy of discrimination against gay and bisexual men.
“Science not sexual orientation should be the deciding factor in the selection and use of blood donations,” said Higgins. “Despite the great need for blood and today’s very precise testing capabilities, antiquated, ill-informed and prejudicial policies are turning healthy donors away. It’s time for a change.”
In 1983 the FDA implemented a policy which created a lifetime deferral for blood donations for gay and bisexual men. In December of 2014 Congressman Higgins joined other Members of Congress in sending a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services urging action on changing the blood donation criteria. Last December, Congressman Higgins joined “Blood is Blood” founder Jordan Moll Vigrass and Pride Center of Western New York Senior Director Matthew Crehan Higgins for a rally against the FDA’s ban on gay blood donations. The following week the FDA issued a final guidance changing its previous lifetime ban to a new policy of a 12-month ban.
Higgins, a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, joined a letter, led by fellow Caucus member Rep. Mike Quigley, and addressed to the FDA Commissioner calling for a permanent reversal of FDA blood donation policy. The members, who note the recent LGBT-targeted attack in Orlando, write, “It is our view that this tragedy, more than any other, shines a light on the need for a permanent reversal of this policy….We urge the FDA, under your direction, to move swiftly toward future changes in policy to promote a less discriminatory system based on risk of transfusion-transmissible infections, and not on sexual orientation.”
According to the American Red Cross every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Frequent recipients include: those with sickle cell disease, accident victims, and cancer patients. All donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases before it is deemed acceptable and released to hospitals.