WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is spearheading an effort to push the Obama administration to overturn the decades long ban on gay men donating blood.
She sent a letter signed by 84 other Democratic lawmakers Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing concern that the ban “continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination.”
Baldwin, who is the first openly gay U.S. senator, and her colleagues are urging that blood donors be selected based on health factors and not sexual orientation.
“Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages,” they wrote.
The HHS launched a review of the ban in March 2012 but has not recommended any policy changes yet. The lawmakers said they are “deeply concerned” about the lengthy timeline and demanded more information about the work that has been done.
The ban has been in place since the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. It prohibits men who have had sex with men from donating blood because of the higher rates of the transfusion-transmissible infections among their population. Currently, they cannot donate blood for the duration of their lives, regardless of when the sexual activity occurred.