A local student group is taking on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood and bone-marrow donations from men who have sex with men one signature at a time.
Viren Doshi is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Health Care Law Committee and is vice president of the Health Law Society at Drexel Law School.
Earlier this month, he started a petition calling on the FDA to revise its ban on gay donors, an issue that has arisen at Drexel and countless other entities that host blood drives.
The ban started in 1985 when the FDA issued a regulation prohibiting blood donation from men who have had sex with another man since 1977, the year the agency deemed to be the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
A number of students raised the issue to HLS, spurring the petition, which Doshi and three other students are working to distribute.
In the petition, HLS states, “the policy goal was to screen out potential donors who had the highest risk of being HIV-positive. While the rule may have successfully prevented a few donations from HIV-positive individuals, more important and devastating is that it has blocked needed donations from many healthy individuals as well.”
Backers have so far gathered 200 signatures.
“It is in its first stages,” Doshi said. “We have passed the petition around Drexel Law, but we are hoping to pass it around to other law schools. We just got it out to the School of Public Health and to the undergraduate schools.”
Organizers also hope to generate interest from local LGBT groups and then take it nationwide.
“The plan is not only to circulate the petition around Drexel and Philadelphia, but schools all across the country,” he said.
The petition will circulate for four or five months before it is sent to the FDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Doshi said both students and faculty at Drexel have expressed outrage over the decades-old ban.
“We are very upset about it. The faculty is upset about it as well and pretty much everyone I have talked to about it is angry,” he said. “It is now 2013; it’s crazy that this ban is still in place. Everything is so highly tested nowadays, there is just really no excuse for having this ban.”
The petition reiterates this message, saying it is discriminatory to ban a segment of the U.S. population from blood drives and bone-marrow registrations.
“In our world of modern science in which labs can screen for HIV within days of infection, it is medically unfounded for the FDA policy to specifically target a discriminated-against population from donating much-needed blood solely because of their sexual orientation and the coinciding stereotype,” the petition states.
Doshi said he hopes efforts such as HLS’ petition will provide fuel for the Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability — which voted in 2010 9-6 against lifting the ban — to reverse course.
“If we get past that stage, that would be amazing.”
From our media partner Philadelphia Gay NewsAngela Thomas, PGN