Members of Congress are urging Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to end a policy instituted in 1983 that bans "men who have sex with men" from donating blood.
"If we are serious about protecting and enhancing our nation's blood supply, we must embrace science and reject outdated stereotypes," states a letter signed by 18 Democratic senators and more than 60 House members.
The letter heightens pressure on the Obama administration to end what many see as a discriminatory practice. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tom Harkin, and Tammy Baldwin are leading the effort in the Senate and have pushed HHS before to evaluate its blood-donation policies. While the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability recommended in November that a lifetime ban was unnecessary, it still seeks to stop men from donating blood if they have engaged in a sexual encounter with another man in the last year.
Lawmakers argue those new guidelines are not enough.
"The recommendation to move to a one-year deferral policy is a step forward relative to current policies, however, such a policy still prevents many low-risk individuals from donating blood," the letter says.
Instead, lawmakers want HHS to institute a process to screen for other risk factors.