LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin (CD 11) Mitch O’Farrell (CD 13) introduced a resolution on Tuesday, Sept. 9, which calls on the Federal government to halt the ban on gay men giving blood at donation drives.
The American Red Cross (ARC) and the Los Angeles LGBT Center expressed support for the resolution.
In 1983, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instituted a lifetime donor deferral policy, to prevent donors from giving infected blood. During that time, the FDA had no way of testing blood or plasma for HIV. Technology has evidently progressed since ’83, and the scientific community now has the means to detect HIV in blood samples.
As it stands now, the FDA’s policy effectively prohibits gay men from donating blood if they have had sex with another man even for just one time since 1977.
“There is no need to discriminate against gay men for giving blood,” O’Farrel said in a statement.
O’Farrell heads LA’s Arts, Parks, Health, Aging, and the Los Angeles River Committee.
“We can do better than this, and through education, science and technology, we have the ability. It’s about time we lift the stigma associated with HIV and free our culture of ignorance regarding this disease.,” he added.
The resolution was submitted to the City’s Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. Should the city council vote in the affirmative to adopt the resolution, Los Angeles would join the growing list of major cities to take a position against the controversial ban.
In the US, blood banks routinely operate with a short blood supply. Due to recent significant disasters and emergencies, most blood banks in several regions have reportedly been operating with blood supply levels of less than two days. These reports were confirmed by the American Association of Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers, and the ARC.
Dave Garcia, director of policy and community building at the LA LGBT Center, said that it’s “irrational to differentiate sexual transmission of diseases based simply on the sex of the partner.”
“This differentiation is unfair, creates stigma without any justifiable public health imperative, and results in negative attitudes to blood donor eligibility criteria and blood collection facilities,” Garcia went on to add.
He also said that the LA LGBT Center will “do everything in its power to finally end this discrimination.”
On June 18, 2013, members of the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to oppose the decades-long ban by the FDA, claiming the policy is “not based on sound science.” The AMA recommended that each prospective donor be evaluated individually, as opposed being rejected outright based on their sexual orientation alone.
O’Farrell and Bonin’s resolution also directs their staff to report to the committee and include research data from the ARC and the LA LGBT Center.
In O’Farrell’s news release, the councilmember also announced that on Sept. 20, a blood drive will be held in West Hollywood to increase awareness on the FDA’s deferral policy. The blood drive will be co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and the LA LGBT Center. O’Farrell indicated that he will attend the event.