Rep. Farr Requests That Policy Barring MSM From Donating Blood Be Re-Evaluated
Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) on Wednesday requested that the fiscal year 2009 agriculture spending bill include language to require FDA to re-evaluate its policy preventing men who have sex with men from donating blood, Farr spokesperson Tom Mentzer said, CQ Today reports (Sternstein, CQ Today, 4/2). According to the FDA policy, which has been in effect since the early 1980s, MSM are barred from donating blood regardless of sexual activity, safer-sex practices or HIV status. Potential blood donors are asked to fill out a questionnaire before donating, and MSM, injection drug users, people who received a tattoo within the previous 12 months and pregnant women are prohibited from donating (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/28).
Farr on Wednesday during a House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Agriculture hearing said the policy is "discriminatory" and outdated. "The science doesn't seem to support" the policy, Farr said. He added that testing for donated blood has improved since the policy was implemented and that women who have sex with women or heterosexuals who have had sexually transmitted infections are not banned from donating.
Jesse Goodman, director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, at the hearing said the policy is supported by science and that allowing MSM to donate blood would result in a "real risk" of increased HIV and hepatitis cases. Goodman added that the policy is a "safety issue" and is "not discriminatory." According to Goodman, several other groups are banned from donating blood. The blood donation policy is not a "perfect system, but it's built on risk rates in those groups," Goodman said (CQ Today, 4/2).