Israel ends its ban on blood donation from gay men. Why not America? / LGBTQ Nation

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Israel is ending all restrictions in place that prevent men from donating blood in any way just because they have sex with men. Gay and bisexual men will now be subject to the same standards as anyone else seeking to donate blood.

The policy places Israel among the growing number of countries that are changing their policies regarding regulations on blood or tissue donation to remove past restrictions on gay and bisexual men. This has left people wondering why America is lagging behind on the issue.

Related: Politician Tells How He Saved His Gay Neighbor’s Life By Donating His Kidney

Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s Minister of Health, said: “There is no difference between one blood and the other. Discrimination against homosexuals in blood donation is over. Horowitz first promised the changes in June.

The policy takes effect in October.

“This is a historic moment for the entire LGBTQ community in Israel and one more step towards equality for all,” US LGBTQ rights group A Wider Bridge wrote in a Facebook post.

In 2018, Israel removed restrictions allowing all gay and bisexual men to donate blood, regardless of when they last had sex with men. The country’s emergency medical service Magen David Adom (MDA), which handles blood donations, has announced that all blood will be tested twice during a two-year trial period, regardless of orientation sex of the donor.

Prior to 2018, Israel refused men to donate if they had had sex with men in the previous 12 months. It was also the policy of the United States, until 2020.

Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, Italy and South Africa are just a few countries that now have no restrictions on donating blood from MSM – while America is still changing the length of their restrictions . The UK lifted all restrictions on MSM blood donors this summer.

Other countries without restrictions include Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Latvia, Mexico, and Poland. France and Canada are just two other countries that have also made changes by easing their restrictions in recent years.

While organizations authorized to receive blood donations have their own policies, it’s a federal agency that demands the policies and obstructs withdrawal across the United States – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Before and during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA maintained its refusal to consider changing blood donation policies, even when it recognized it was in desperate need of blood.

Then, in April 2020, the FDA announced it would ease restrictions on donating blood from men who have had sex with men (MSM). They relaxed the restriction to three months after the last time they had sex, reducing the deferral period to 12 months. Women, who were also previously limited to 12 months if they had sex with men who have sex with men, could also donate after three months.

Despite their own advice, several blood banks have said the FDA has not altered their internal process for accepting blood donations from MSM for months, and several gay and bisexual men have still been turned away amid the pandemic. including politicians and elected officials.

Since then, advocates have continued to push for the complete repeal of all restrictions on donating blood based on the donor’s sexual orientation.

Since 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) has recommended moving away from any policy that systematically refuses blood donations from “classes of people” rather than examining “individual donors on the basis of a risk assessment. evidence-based ”. The organization called the FDA’s previous policy “discriminatory” and “not based on sound science.”

“Discriminatory FDA policies and inconsistent donation policies from blood bank to blood bank implicitly encourage potential donors to decide between donating blood or stopping their medication and abstaining from sex,” wrote Dr. Cynthia Brinson and Christopher Hamilton in an article published in LGBTQ Nation in May 2020.

“If the FDA does not stop discriminating against gay men, its policy could inadvertently encourage HIV transmission and undermine our ability to fight COVID-19. “

The FDA’s regulatory ban also affects other areas of blood and tissue donation. There is a shortage of corneal donations, and this is linked to the fact that most men who have sex with men are unable to donate eye tissue, even after death.

“There is little scientific evidence to justify this fear, as there has never been a reported case of transmission of HIV by corneal transplant in the world,” wrote Dr Michael A. Puente in a statement. LGBTQ Nation article in October.

Gay and bisexual men continued to be affected by policies widely viewed as discriminatory and misguided. The restrictions date back to the early days of the HIV / AIDS epidemic under the Reagan administration and continue to address the stigma of men who have sex with men based on outdated science and stereotypical assumptions about homosexual men.

The policy also affects transgender and gender nonconforming people who attempt to donate blood. Most trans women are considered MSM because of their gender in clinics and blood donation organizations, although under the previous ban the American Red Cross interpreted it to prevent men trans having sex with men donating blood, but not transgender women having sex with them. Men.

The revised FDA policy stated that “in the context of the donor history questionnaire, the FDA recommends that male or female be considered self-identified and self-reported,” and now many organizations like the Cross American Red does not question anyone. – identified gender.

A 2020 letter from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and signed by 17 US Senators and 30 House Members calling the FDA restrictions “not based on current science “. Dozens of members of Congress have continuously pushed the FDA to lift its restrictions completely.

It is not known if or when the FDA plans to do this.

President Joe Biden (R) has yet to appoint a new commissioner for the FDA after the previous commissioner, Dr Stephen M. Hahn, stepped down in January. Reports this week indicate that Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock will not be chosen as Biden’s permanent choice due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), among others.

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