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Wisconsin Senator Baldwin Praises Gay Blood Donor Change, But Wants More Revision

Chuck Quirmbach
The Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin building near Marquette University in Milwaukee

Federal officials have eased blood donation restrictions on gay and bisexual men. Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she supports the change, but says it doesn’t go far enough.

The new guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reduce the amount of time — from 12 months to three months — that men who have sex with men have to be same-sex abstinent before giving blood.

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Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, had been pushing the government to make the change, partly due to canceled blood drives resulting in shortages during the coronavirus pandemic. Baldwin joined group leaders on a media call Thursday. The Democrat said the new policy is a positive step, but adds the automatic three-month restriction is still wrong.

“The blanket deferrals are not based in science, and are not based on the best expertise on these topics. And so, we’ve got to push further. The administration needs to change their donation policies to be based on an individual’s risk, rather than blanket deferrals," Baldwin said.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams told reporters on a different call that the new guidelines better reflect the time it takes to detect HIV in blood after certain risky behaviors.

The Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin, which supplies more than 50 hospitals in 29 counties including Milwaukee, says it will abide by the new FDA guidelines, and implement the change as rapidly as it can. Versiti says it has to train dozens of staff members and revise donor registration procedures.

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