Trump administration declines to lift ban on gay men donating blood despite shortage amid coronavirus crisis
The United States blood bank is reportedly facing a shortage of blood and plasma supply in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, with many staying in their homes amid federal guidance to self-isolate.
Lawmakers like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney, considering the shortage, have written to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift a ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Recent requests for lifting the ban were, however, refused by the Trump administration.
One FDA official, while talking to the Daily News, said that administration is aware of "a dramatic reduction in blood and plasma donations. We are actively considering the situation as the outbreak progresses," the official said.
Amidst the reluctance of the administration to lift the ban, AOC and Maloney wrote to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, asking him to revise the "antiquated policy."
According to estimates, over 4.5 million people are prevented from donating blood if the ban on gay people is taken into account. The ban reportedly results in an estimated loss of 615,000 pints of blood each year.
"This antiquated policy is not based on current science ... and undermines crucial efforts to increase the nation's blood supply as the United States grapples with the coronavirus crisis," Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney wrote in a letter to Hahn. "We urge FDA to act swiftly in revising its policy so every person who can safely donate blood in the United States has the opportunity to do so."
The particular restriction on gay men dates back to the early 1980s during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, suggesting blood banks not to accept donations from men who had been sexually active with other men in the past year.
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, who is openly gay, had also written to Hahn last month, asking for the "outdated, discriminatory, and — in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis — detrimental to public health" restrictions to be lifted. The senator reportedly has not yet received any kind of response from the FDA yet on the issue.
Amidst the shortage of blood supply, Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams recently called on all Americans to donate blood amidst the crisis if they can. The spread of the deadly coronavirus, however, has led to multiple blood drives being canceled. Reports state that the precautionary measures currently undertaken have resulted in around 130,000 fewer donations.
Reports state more than 4,000 blood donations across the country have been canceled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The New York Blood Center alone reportedly had to cancel over 600 blood donation drives, resulting in an estimated loss of 24,000 potential donations.
The United States, as of April 2, registered more than 216,000 coronavirus cases in the country, with over 5,000 recorded deaths. COVID-19 has infected nearly 100,000 people across the world with a recorded fatality of almost 50,000. Although multiple countries are striving to find a cure for the novel coronavirus, there is no known official cure or vaccine for the deadly infection yet.