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Senator John Kerry supports health study that could lift ban on gay men donating blood

WASHINGTON -- Senator John Kerry on Monday expressed support for a move by federal health officials that could lead to lifting the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

In a letter drafted by the Massachusetts Democrat and Representative Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, Kerry applauded Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “for taking the important step toward ending the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, and instead relying on the science of today not the myths of 20 years ago.”

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The federal agency said it would launch a pilot study reviewing the policy in place since the 1980s, when fear about the AIDS virus prompted blood banks to reject blood from gay men.

“In the 27 years since, we have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, policy changes in other nations, and staunch opposition from the nation’s blood banks who have called the current ban ‘medically and scientifically unwarranted,’ ” the letter said.  

“Still, healthy gay and bisexual men continue to be banned for life, while the FDA allows a man who has had sex with an HIV-positive woman to give blood after waiting only one year,” the letter continued.  “This double standard is inconsistent and indefensible.  Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages.” 

The letter was co-signed by 10 Democratic senators and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.

Kerry’s office said the senator has long advocated that health officials abandon the policy.

Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at bobby.calvan@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @GlobeCalvan.
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