Kris Mayes Pushes to Change Rules on National Blood Ban

Attorney General Kris Mayes signed onto new FDA guidance that would allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood...PLUS a new EYES ON THE STATE

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The Food and Drug Administration proposed new rules in January that would allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood after decades of banning them from doing so. (Photo by Pietro Naj-Oleari)

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes along with 21 other state Attorneys Generals signed a letter on March 31st in support of the Food and Drug Administration's new proposed guidance that would ease restrictions for gay and bisexual men to donate blood and plasma, after a 40-year ban.

Blood bans for gay men became a federal law during the AIDS and HIV epidemic in the 1980s, as it became clear that the virus was a blood-transmissible disease. The lifelong ban continued well into the 2000’s and 2010’s, and only recently was updated to reflect the vast amount of studies that showed how gay men had become less of a risk for the virus.

Though gay men continue to be one of the largest drivers of HIV transmissions, that is alongside a considerable rise among Black women, Black men who have sex with other men (but who don’t identify as gay), and incarcerated people.

In the past few years, the FDA has changed donation requirements from a blanket ban on gay and bisexual men, to allowing them to donate, so long as they hadn’t had sexual activity in a year. The new rule included married or monogamous couples.

“Discriminatory blood donation policies not only stigmatize the LGBTQ community, and gay and bisexual men in particular, but also endanger the lives of patients in need,” said Mayes. “It’s long past time to abandon outdated practices and embrace a risk-based approach that allows all eligible donors to contribute to the blood supply. If implemented, the new guidance proposed by the Biden administration will undoubtedly save lives.”

But this past January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA introduced a guidance that would use an individual risk-based analysis to assess potential donors—of all genders and sexual orientations—rather than a time-based deferral.

The new proposed guidance will initiate a process where if a prospective donor reports having a new sexual partner or more than one sexual partner in the past three months, they will be asked about their past sexual history regarding anal sex in the last three months. If prospective donors report experiencing all three in the past three months, they will be deferred from donating blood. Other prospective donors who answer no to all three statements will be eligible to donate, as long as they meet all other eligibility criteria.

HIV positive people or anyone who has taken medication to treat HIV will still continue to be permanently deferred from donating blood. Those taking medication to prevent HIV, such as PrEP or PEP, are deferred for three months from their most recent dose.

The existing FDA policy recommends barring gay and bisexual men from donating blood within three months of their most recent sexual contact. The FDA revised this policy for the first time in 2020, but didn’t take into account specific risk factors. In turn, this policy prevented non-celibate gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

A 2014 report by the Williams Institute showed that lifting the blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men would make over 2 million blood donors eligible to donate and create nearly 300,000 pints of extra blood donations each year. According to estimates gathered by the American Red Cross, a single blood donation has the capacity to be used in life-saving circumstances for at least three individuals. Given these statistics, removing the ban has the potential to save more than a million people.

International countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada have successfully enacted similar policies. A Canadian study from 2022 showed that eliminating deferral periods for gay and bisexual men would not cause an increase in HIV infections.

In a press release signed by Arizona Attorney General Mayes, she supported the new policy because of its potential to increase the available blood supply. Since the onset of the pandemic, The American Red Cross has seen a ten percent decline in the number of blood donations. Mayes also stated the importance of removing discriminatory aspects of the current FDA guidance because it violates constitutional Equal Protection principles.

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LOOKOUT's 'Eyes on the State' is brought to you by an exclusive partnership with Equality AZ. Check here every week to see what's being proposed by lawmakers, who are the state power brokers, and context for current and upcoming bills.

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