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LA LGBT Center Pushes To End FDA Blood Donation Restriction For Gay And Bisexual Men

A person wearing purple gloves handles a bag of donated blood. Blood vials and a laptop keyboard are also visible.
A Red Cross technician prepares a bag of donated blood at a drive in San Diego last April. During the pandemic a critical need for blood donations spurred relaxation of some of the regulations on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
(ARIANA DREHSLER
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles LGBT Center is joining California's insurance commissioner in pushing the FDA to end a policy restricting blood donations from gay and bisexual men. This comes in the same week that theL.A. County Board of Supervisors also voiced their opposition for the restrictions.

The FDA prohibits men who have sex with men from donating blood unless they have abstained for three months, despite each unit of donated blood undergoing screening for disease pathogens.

In a letter, insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara wrote the policy is "outdated, discriminatory guidance,” and claimed that it’s contributing to the national blood shortage.

The LGBT Center's Robert Gamboa says a ban was understandable when people did not know much about HIV.

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"But we've had so much advancement in how we can screen blood and test blood and it's just been a discriminatory ban this whole time," Gamboa said.

The center is recruiting gay and bisexual men for a nationwide study on determining a person's risk of contracting HIV.

"We advocate for the policy change, and any change needs to be evidence-based," said Risa Flynn, the center's director of clinical research.
"And that's what we're doing with this study. [The study] is providing the scientific evidence base for the change in guideline."

Flynn said about 150 study participants have been recruited so far in the L.A. area.

A blood shortage has plagued L.A. County and the nation. The American Red Cross called it the "worst blood shortage in more than a decade." Last month, the Red Cross’ L.A. Communications Director, Marium Mohiuddin, said that the rise in omicron cases paused many traditional blood drives.

"Blood is something that's needed ... always," Mohiuddin said. "It can't be created by anything else but humans, and there's never not going to be a need for it."

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