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California attorney general urges FDA to change blood donation rules

By Mark Iandolo | Jul 14, 2016

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) — California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging it to drop the practice of deferring blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM) even once within 12 months of trying to donate blood.

After the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, many safe and willing donors were unable to donate blood due to the FDA’s deferral guidance.

Harris argues that modern technology, along with the country’s better understanding of HIV, can allow the FDA to achieve alternative, non-discriminatory methods for ensuring the safety of the United States’ blood supply.

“Understanding the FDA’s responsibility for maintaining the safety of the nation’s blood supply and your steadfast commitment to implementing data-driven policies, I call on you to consider less categorical risk-based donation policies that will ensure blood safety,” Harris said in the letter. “As we work to achieve the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law, it is our duty to amend or repeal policies that keep us anchored to a shameful past.”

The FDA adopted the policy of 12-month deferrals last year, a move that replaced the previously held lifetime ban on MSM blood donations. Harris notes that 12 months is effectively a lifetime ban for many gay and bisexual men.

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