Health/Fitness

U.S. Rep Mike Quigley Discusses MSM Blood Ban with OutLaw

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Apr 8, 2014
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Rep. Quigley takes questions from University of Chicago law students on the MSM blood ban
Rep. Quigley takes questions from University of Chicago law students on the MSM blood ban  (Source:Courtesy Tim Nazanin)

On March 31, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) spoke to OutLaw, an organization for LGBT students at the University of Chicago Law School, highlighting the need to reevaluate the FDA’s blood donation criteria that unfairly discriminates against men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM is currently prohibited from donating blood for life based on their sexual orientation, rather than their level of risk.

"Healthy would-be donors are turned away based solely on their sexual orientation -- a policy that is not only prejudiced, but is also out of line with our national need for blood donations," said Rep. Quigley. "It’s time to end this discriminatory practice and implement a policy that allows all healthy individuals to donate life-saving blood."

The current lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was implemented during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, but it is no longer necessary given current blood screening technology. In 2010, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability (ACBTSA) found the ban to be suboptimal and asked for a re-evaluation of this policy.

The blood banking community, including the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers, has long supported a change in policy. Last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution opposing the current lifetime ban, based on its discriminatory and non-scientific basis. Instead, the AMA supports donation deferral policies that are based on an individual’s level of risk.

Rep. Quigley is a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a tireless advocate for the LGBT community. He has previously worked with former Senator John Kerry to urge HHS to examine alternative blood donor deferral criteria and has long believed the policy should reflect risky behavior rather than sexual orientation.

Recently, Rep. Quigley joined Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce a resolution honoring January as "National Blood Donor Month" and emphasizing the importance of volunteer blood donation to our nation’s public health.

Since its founding in 1984, OutLaw has sought to further three goals: To increase social acceptance of gay students at the Law School, to educate the Law School community on the legal status of gays and lesbians, and to provide a supportive atmosphere for gay and lesbian law students.

OutLaw has also assisted gay alumni and the Law School in establishing the country’s first law school scholarship for students who demonstrate commitment to the advancement of legal rights for gays and lesbians.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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