US: 2020 Democratic candidates call to end ban on gay men donating blood

A growing number of Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 election are calling for an end to a long-held standard for blood donations, which critics say enforces latent homophobia and leaves America’s blood supply vulnerable to unscientific limits.

That policy, which bans gay and bisexual men who have had sex with other men within the past year from donating blood, has been criticised as unnecessary in terms of modern scientific testing for blood-borne sexually transmitted diseases like HIV – modern tests can find the virus in the bloodstream within two weeks.

With LGBT+ Pride Month celebrations in full swing, The Independent contacted each of the major 2020 Democratic political campaigns to ask for their position on reforming the blood test ban. In response, seven campaigns responded that their candidates believe the one-year ban enforced by the US Food and Drug Administration is outdated, and needs to be replaced.

“The one-year deferral period for male blood donors who identify as gay and bisexual has nothing to do with science or medicine and everything to do with outdated stigmas against the LGBTQ community,” a spokesperson for Beto O’Rourke’s campaign says. “Our blood screening policies must be based on 21st century medical evidence, not outdated biases about which populations carry more risk of HIV transmission. These policies serve no one and will only limit access to life-saving blood donations,” they add.

Mr O’Rourke is joined by the campaigns of Elizabeth WarrenBernie SandersKamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, and Marianne Williamson to respond to the request, and indicate that they believe the blood testing is discriminatory and in need of repeal.

For many of the candidates, the positions aren’t specifically new, but the overwhelming support for the repeal appears to be unique to the 2020 primary field, and follows after growing pressure and momentum to rework American blood donation policy to better align with more scientific behavioural risks that are not unique to the LGBT+ community – for instance, having multiple sexual partners without using protection.

William McColl, the director of health policy with the advocacy group AIDs United, says that he hasn’t seen presidential candidates discussing the issue much in previous election cycles. Read more via Independent