LGBTQ group asks Congress to stop ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on blood donors

Thursday, the Department of Public Health released draft policy guidance for blood donation in the U.S. On March 14, both the House and Senate passed a funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. Of the issues being debated regarding the funding, the GLBTQ Research and Education Fund stated that the Health and Human Services’s direction to blood centers means they “must comply with the Voluntary Recruitment and Safety Screening of Donors (VROSPAN) Guidance, which requires blood centers to collect information about an individual’s sexual history, and conduct a screening test at least once per month if that information is disclosed to a blood center.”

The advocacy group adds, “This mandatory recruitment and safety screening is discriminatory and is the epitome of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ outdated ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ forcing gay people to choose between donating blood or their sexuality. At the center of the majority’s bill is a $76,000 fee to be reimbursed by the federal government for every gay blood ban violation.”

Yet, officials for the Blood Services say that they “do not discriminate” in any of their blood screening policies, claiming that they give donors more choice than people choosing not to donate. However, Blood Services adds that other areas do require more explicit information about risk. After the CDC updated the U.S. policy in October 2016 to reflect the practice of collecting data about sexual orientation, Blood Services says, “these changes have resulted in over 2 million more donor units being collected, which is equivalent to more than 1 million additional people receiving lifesaving blood every year.”

Blood Services has taken the creation of its screening practices seriously. In addition to taking a position “to protect our blood supply,” they say that the policy is “based on evidence supporting the need for additional blood components. Blood centers need to be able to select blood types based on the patient’s blood type as determined by their sex without needing to know more about the individual’s sexual orientation.” Blood Services also claims that this has never been in the bag, as they added, “the Department is reaching out to community partners, public health, and medical organizations to ensure that, in the event that there are changes or additions to a specific guidance document, Blood Services will take the necessary steps to immediately incorporate any updates and/or changes into our policies and practices.”

Read the full Huffington Post article here.


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