Se­nate, Congress gets in­volved

GA Voice - - Remembering The Orlando 49 -

In 1983, as the num­ber of HIV in­fec­tions and deaths from AIDS be­gan to sky­rocket, the FDA up­dated their guide­lines so that any man who had had sex with men since 1977 was in­el­i­gi­ble to do­nate blood. An HIV/ AIDS test for blood was de­vel­oped in 1985, but it wasn’t un­til De­cem­ber of last year that the FDA re­vised their guide­lines, re­moved what in ef­fect was a life­time ban and changed

June 24, 2016

it to where any man who had had sex with men in the pre­vi­ous 12 months was in­el­i­gi­ble. But the fact still re­mained that straight peo­ple who have anony­mous, un­pro­tected sex all the time could still do­nate while HIV neg­a­tive men in monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships are all banned for be­ing gay.

The change came after a Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices com­mit­tee made rec­om­men­da­tions to do so, but there was also heavy pres­sure from the pub­lic in par­tic­u­lar. One ini­tia­tive, the Na­tional Gay Blood Drive, was cre­ated in 2013 by a gay film­maker in Los An­ge­les named Ryan James Yezak. Gay and bi­sex­ual men in cities across the coun­try— in­clud­ing At­lanta—showed up to do­nate blood and got turned down, cre­at­ing aware­ness about the ban. The fol­low­ing year, Yezak made it a two-pronged approach by hav­ing the gay and bi­sex­ual men take an el­i­gi­ble ally with them to give blood.

But the peo­ple be­hind the Na­tional Gay Blood Drive didn’t stop once the FDA changed it to a one-year de­fer­ral last De­cem­ber. The group’s spokesman, Jay Fran­zone, a 21-year-old se­nior at Lasell Col­lege in New­ton, Mas­sachusetts, de­cided to ab­stain from sex for a year to bring aware­ness to the pol­icy.

“When our com­mu­nity is at­tacked, we want to help,” Fran­zone told Buz­zfeed. “We want to be there. But we can’t be­cause we’re gay. Dis­crim­i­na­tion is still alive and well in out­dated fed­eral poli­cies.”

On June 20, 114 mem­bers of Congress and 24 mem­bers of the U.S. Se­nate sent let­ters to the FDA call­ing the cur­rent pol­icy dis­crim­i­na­tory against gay and bi­sex­ual men and urg­ing them to base their guide­lines on in­di­vid­ual risk fac­tors in­stead of tar­get­ing a spe­cific set of peo­ple.

“Dur­ing times of tragedy, the Amer­i­can peo­ple are quick to demon­strate their re­siliency and mo­bi­lize in sol­i­dar­ity with vic­tims and af­fected com­mu­ni­ties. We have wit­nessed that com­pas­sion as Florid­i­ans quickly lined up to do­nate blood for the wounded. Yet, some of those most touched by this tragedy-mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity, who are es­pe­cially ea­ger to con­trib­ute to the re­sponse ef­fort-are find­ing them­selves turned away. Due to the FDA’s cur­rent MSM de­fer­ral pol­icy, many healthy gay and bi­sex­ual men re­main pro­hib­ited from do­nat­ing needed blood,” the Se­nate let­ter read. “We are stead­fastly com­mit­ted to end­ing the FDA’s dis­crim­i­na­tory pol­icy that pro­hibits many healthy MSM from do­nat­ing blood and mov­ing to poli­cies that se­cure our na­tion’s blood sup­ply in a sci­en­tif­i­cally sound man­ner based on in­di­vid­ual risk.”

The two let­ters were ab­sent any sig­na­tures from sen­a­tors or mem­bers of Congress from Ge­or­gia.

Mean­while, the FDA will only say this: “The FDA will closely mon­i­tor the ef­fects of the cur­rent changes over the next few years in or­der to help en­sure that blood safety is main­tained. At the same time, the FDA will con­tinue to work in this area and re­view its donor de­fer­ral poli­cies to en­sure they re­flect the most up-to-date sci­en­tific knowl­edge. This process must be data-driven, so the time­frame for fu­ture changes is not some­thing that can be pre­dicted.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.