Pace Students Attempt to Revise FDA Policy

Gerald Olvera, Feature Writer

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A 34-year-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blood, organ, and tissue donation policy is gaining momentum for revision and Pace has been helping spearhead the movement.

The FDA since 1983 had an indefinite deferral policy regarding men who have sex with other men (MSM). December 2015, the policy was reduced to 12-month deferral since last sexual contact with another man.

Pace students have been petitioning for change to the existing policy during blood drives outside of Gottesman room. The policy discriminates against MSM, bi-sexual, transgender, and pansexual based on identity and not if the potential donors have engaged in high-risk behaviors.

Transgender men and women now have to identify with the gender of their birth. Well here’s the discriminatory part; transgender men have to identify as being female and since they now claim to be male, they now fall under the 12-month deferral policy because they admit to having sex with a man.

“I like to see screening questions that address risky behaviors specifically, and not identity,” Associate Director of Women Studies, Rachel Simon said. “Who you are doesn’t matter, your behavior is what matters.”

United Kingdom found in their research that it takes approximately up to one year for HIV/AIDS to appear in blood samples. Finally, in 2011 they set the one-year deferral policy and the United States followed five years later with the FDA’s research.

“The FDA makes the rules,” New York Blood Center Supervisor, Shannon Harrison said. “The questionnaires have to be specific, they want to make sure that all samples are good. MSM is more unsafe that heterosexual intercourse.”

A gay man, in a monogamous relationship who has only had oral sex, will still automatically be unable to give blood. However, a heterosexual man who has had multiple partners and not worn a condom will not be questioned about his behavior. This proves the fact that high-risk heterosexuals would still be less controlled than low-risk gay men.

“The questionnaire doesn’t ask if you’re a man that is married to a man, and if you’ve been monogamous for 30 years,” Simon said. “They don’t even consider that neither of you have ever tested positive for HIV or AIDS. They will throw out perfectly good blood.”

Presently, updated blood screening methods and research provide the FDA with resources to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission. The last known HIV transmission was recorded on June 2008 from a 40-year-old male who wasn’t even identified as gay, bi-sexual, or transgender.

Following their 2015 policy change, the FDA promised that they will continue to reconsider the donor deferral policies as new data becomes available. A public docket was opened which welcomed comments and scientific research from the public.

Pace’s continued support by petitioning for policy change is part of public’s welcomed comments and research obtained by the FDA.


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