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State Senator

Norm Needleman

Representing Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook

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As Pride Month Begins and COVID-19 Impacts Blood Donations, Sen. Needleman Signs Letter to FDA Commissioner Advocating for End of Ban on Donations from Gay and Bisexual Men


Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) signed a letter addressed to Federal Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, advocating for an end on the ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, men would have to wait a year after having a same-sex encounter to donate blood; recently, due to increased demand for blood donations, that time period was reduced to three months. However, that is not good enough, Sen. Needleman said; the abrupt change shows the rule has been unnecessary for far too long.

"We have known for decades that healthy men, no matter their sexual partner, can safely donate blood," said Sen. Needleman. "Still, this unfair double standard continues to be in place, essentially asking these men to make a choice between loving who they want and donating blood to save lives. Eliminating this outdated rule would be a strongly effective way to support the LGBTQ community."

The American Red Cross has spoken out against the ban, saying it believes the American Red Cross believes donation eligibility should not be determined by methods based on sexual orientation. Additionally, The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates as many as 360,600 men would be newly eligible to donate should the ban be lifted, vitally important as the Red Cross last month had less than five days' supply of blood available due to reductions in donations as a response to COVID-19.

The full letter has been printed below.


June 1, 2020

Dr. Stephen M. Hahn
United States Commissioner of Food and Drugs
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Dear Commissioner Hahn,

We, the undersigned leaders of Connecticut, write to express our concern with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) discriminatory blood donation policy for men who have sex with men (MSM). We are unwavering in our commitment to ending the FDA’s policy that prohibits healthy MSM from donating blood and encourage the Administration to move toward a policy that strengthens our nation’s blood policy, during this time of uncertainty, in a scientifically sound matter based on an individual's risk.

Adequate blood supply is critical to the nation’s healthcare. As of April 9, 2020, the American Red Cross, which provides about 40 percent of our nation’s blood and blood components, had less than a five-day blood supply on hand. Additionally, changes are needed in the coming years to make our HIV prevention policy fully consistent with science, public health, and equal protection by moving to a risk-based strategy.

The recently instituted three-month deferral policy continues to perpetuate stereotypes that are systematically outdated and discriminates against an entire class of individuals, and thus this deferral continues to remain a de facto lifetime ban for many healthy gay and bisexual men.

The American Red Cross has spoken out against the ban noting that, “the American Red Cross believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.” Also, The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that should the ban be lifted, an additional 360,600 men would be eligible to donate.

We urge you to implement a new policy, eliminating the time deferral prohibiting healthy MSMs to donate blood - a policy rooted in science, based on risk factors, and a policy that does not single out a single class of individuals thus - allowing all healthy Americans to donate blood and plasma.

We look forward to your response and future dialogue on this important issue and thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

State Senator Norm Needleman

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