LGBTI Blood Donation Bill Approved By Legislature

by Boyce Hinman

On August 30 the state Assembly gave final approval to Assembly Joint Resolution 13, urging an end to the federal policy of banning all men who have sex with men from donating blood. The legislation requires no action from the Governor.

Once the bureaucratic paper work is done, the resolution will be sent to the President and to the leaders of both houses of Congress. AJR 13 was introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and sponsored by Equality California. The resolution urges the federal government to use science based evidence as the basis of its policy on who may or may not donate blood.
Under an existing FDA policy, men who have had sex with other men, at any time since 1977, are currently banned from donating blood for their entire lives. The FDA has argued this rule is necessary because men who have sex with men are at higher risk of contracting and transmitting HIV and hepatitis.

Heterosexual groups at similar high risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections do not face a lifetime ban on blood donation.

The FDA’s current policy prevents innumerable gay and bisexual men, who are entirely healthy, from contributing to the nation's blood supply at a time when we are facing chronic shortfalls due to a lack of donations.

In 2007, the Red Cross reported that Southern California's blood supply had reached critical levels, resulting in a record low four-hour supply of type-O negative blood. More recently, in January, the New York Blood Center began rationing its supply to hospitals in and around New York City because of a shortfall there.

The FDA’s policy regarding men who have had sex with men was first imposed in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis, when little was known about the disease or how it is spread. Today, a better understanding of the disease and significant innovations in blood screening technology make the fear of HIV spreading through the blood supply nearly nonexistent.

The three major U.S. blood donation agencies, the American Red Cross, the American Association for Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers have found that the lifetime blood donation ban on men who have had sex with men is medically and scientifically unwarranted.

It does not appear rational to broadly differentiate sexual transmission of HIV via male-to-male sexual activity from transmission via heterosexual activity. In fact, high-risk heterosexual contact accounts for 27.6 percent of all HIV cases. Of these cases, 72.4 percent are women.

This differentiation is unfair and discriminatory, stigmatizing willing donors for their status rather than behavior. The policy sends a harmful message based on outdated notions and discourages an entire group of people from serving the community.

Boyce Hinman is the founder of the California Communities United Institute. He can be reached at or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or calcomui.org

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