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82 U.S. lawmakers ask that ban on gay men donating blood be lifted

Aug. 5, 2013 at 2:29 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- More than 80 U.S. congressional members Monday asked the Obama administration to end the ban on gay men donating blood, calling it an outdated policy.

Eighty-two lawmakers, including one Republican, signed the letter, saying Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should re-evaluate blood donation criteria that include a lifetime ban on gay men from donating blood, The Hill reported.

"Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more than 30 years ago, the scientific community's understanding of the virus has changed dramatically," the lawmakers said in their letter. "We have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, blood donation policy changes in other countries allowing [gay men] to donate, and opposition from our nation's blood banks who have called the current ban 'medically and scientifically unwarranted.'"

Lawmakers said current policies turn away "healthy, willing donors" even in the face of serious blood shortages, The Hill said.

"Further, the existing lifetime ban continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men, and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination," they said.

While praising the Health and Human Services Department for conducting studies and considering rule changes, the congressional members said the department hasn't moved fast enough, considering other developed countries have re-evaluated their policies on blood donations from gay men.

"We look forward to ending this outdated policy and moving forward with securing the nation's blood supply in a scientifically sound manner," the lawmakers wrote.

Eighteen senators and 64 House members signed the letter. Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming was the only Republican to sign on.

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