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Sen. Kerry leads group calling for FDA to end ban on gays donating blood

Thursday, March 4, 2010
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Kerry

Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts called today for the Food and Drug Administration to lift a “discriminatory” ban on gay men donating blood.

Kerry led a group of 18 senators — 17 Democrats and one independent — who sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, urging her to lift the lifetime ban on men who have engaged in homosexual relationships since 1977.

“Not a single piece of scientific evidence supports the ban,” the Democratic senator said in a statement.

“A law that was once considered medically justified is today simply outdated and needs to end, just as last year we ended the travel ban against those with HIV.”

The American Red Cross and other health organizations support ending the ban, saying the law is “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

“All donated blood is mandated to be tested for HIV with two different, highly accurate tests. Between these two tests, the risk of tainted blood entering the blood supply undetected is virtually zero,” said Kerry’s office.

The FDA, in a statement, defended the ban and said that “while FDA appreciates concerns about perceived discrimination, our decision to maintain the deferral policy is based on current science and data and does not give weight to a donor’s sexual orientation.”

The ban, enacted at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, bars men who have ever had sex with other men after 1977 from donating blood.

Read Sen. Kerry’s thoughtful essay at Bay Windows.

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