House, Senate Democrats Urge Health Officials to Revise MSM Deferral Policy

January 19, 2022

Democratic legislators from the House of Representatives and Senate urged health officials to reassess blood donation policies for men who have sex with men (MSM) in response to ongoing blood supply pressures. Current Food and Drug Administration regulations permit MSM to donate blood three months after their last sexual contact with another man.

In a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform stated their belief that FDA’s current time-based deferral policy “continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men” and “undermines crucial efforts to ensure an adequate and stable national blood supply.” The legislators also reiterated their support for individualized risk assessment to expand donor eligibility, citing its recent adoption in other countries. “With the addition of an individualized risk-based assessment, the deferral period for all donors in the United States—including MSM—could potentially be eliminated,” they wrote.

On Jan. 13, a group of Senators issued a letter to Woodcock and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra expressing their alarm at the nationwide shortage of blood and blood products. Citing a Jan. 10 joint statement from the blood community that reported dangerously low supplies of certain critical blood types, the legislators stated that current deferral policies do not “meet the urgent demands of the moment.” They urged FDA to update current blood donor deferral policies “in favor of ones that are grounded in science, based on individualized risk factors, and allow all potentially eligible donors to do so free of stigma.”

Both letters requested a briefing on FDA’s plan to update its MSM blood donation policies.