Quigley pledges support for the National Gay Blood Drive

Thu. July 10, 2014 5:33 PM

congressman mike quigley (d-il)

photo credit // jay shaff

Staffers volunteering at Chicago drive at Howard Brown Health Center

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) spoke out in support of the National Gay Blood Drive happening in 61 cities across America tomorrow, including at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago. The drive highlights the need to reevaluate current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) donation criteria that unfairly discriminates against men who have sex with men (MSM), banning them for life based solely on sexual orientation instead of focusing on actual risky behavior.

"Being gay does not implicitly make someone an unsafe blood donor. The current outdated and discriminatory FDA policy is based on unjustifiable fear and bigotry instead of science and facts," said Rep. Quigley. "I'm proud to support the National Gay Blood Drive happening tomorrow at Howard Brown Health Center because America shouldn't treat gay and bisexual men as second class citizens or turn away healthy would-be donors who could be providing lifesaving blood."

During the National Gay Blood Drive, gay and bisexual men who are banned from giving blood are encouraged to bring straight surrogates to donate blood on their behalf at donation sites around the country. Chicago's Gay Blood Drive will occur tomorrow, July 11 from 1-5 p.m. at the Howard Brown Health Center. Although Rep. Quigley will be unable to donate because of voting duties in Washington, DC, members of his district staff have volunteered to donate on behalf of members of Chicago's LGBT community. Illinois's 5th District is home to Chicago's Boystown, the first officially recognized gay village in the United States.

The current lifetime ban on MSM donating blood was put in place during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, but is no longer scientifically justified with 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 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. In 2010, 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 long believed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should revise the FDA policy to match modern science and reflect risky behavior rather than sexual orientation. He first spearheaded the effort in 2010 with then-Sen. John Kerry and continued the push last year, working with U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to call on HHS to expedite their efforts to reexamine the policy.

From a news release