The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration calling for a lifting of restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
“These outdated restrictions aren’t just discriminatory — they’re actively endangering the lives of people in need of blood,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement following the 5-0 vote. “As we face the worst blood shortage we’ve seen in a decade, we have an easy way to increase our blood supply while putting an end to a homophobic policy that targets people for who they are and who they love.”
Current rules prevent gay or bisexual men from donating blood unless they abstain from sex for a minimum of three months. Restrictions on donations were first imposed amid the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, initially banning all donations from men who have sex with other men. The restriction was eventually eased to allow donations if gay or bisexual men abstain from sex for a year, then later reduced to a three-month period.
According to Hahn’s motion, seconded by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, every pint of donated blood “is rigorously tested to detect any trace of HIV, syphillis, hepatitis, West Nile virus and other blood-borne diseases.” The motion was approved unanimously, calling for a letter signed by all five board members to be sent to the FDA.
“According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, changing this policy could result in the donation of more than 600,000 additional pints of blood,” Kuehl said in a statement. “Let’s put an end to homophobia and help replenish our national blood supply.”