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FRC's Sprigg Desperately Tries To Justify Discriminating Against Gay Blood Donors

December 06, 2013 11:56 am ET by Luke Brinker

Family Research Council (FRC) senior fellow Peter Sprigg testified before a federal advisory panel considering lifting the ban on gay men donating blood, grasping at straws to defend a blanket policy the American Medical Association (AMA) says is "discriminatory" and "not based on sound science."

In December 5 testimony before the Department of Health and Human Services' Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability (ACBTSA), Sprigg cited figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that men who have sex with men constitute the majority of HIV infections in the U.S. Sprigg warned the panel that reversing the 28 year-old ban on gay blood donors poses a risk to "public safety": 

There is no question that the use of donated blood tainted with HIV would be a threat to public safety. There is also no question that men who have sex with men are at a much greater risk of being infected with HIV. While there is also no question that we have made tremendous advances in the treatment of HIV infection, advances in the prevention of high-risk behaviors have lagged behind.

Sprigg's fear-mongering doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Other countries - including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Japan, and South Africa - have already ended their bans on gay blood donations, instituting waiting periods to guard against the risk of HIV infection. A peer-reviewed study of Australia's policy - which requires a 12-month deferral for men who have sex with men - found "no evidence" of an increased risk of HIV infection.

The U.S. already has waiting periods of its own. Heterosexual women who have sex with AIDS- or HIV-infected partners may donate blood after a one-year window, but under the 1985 ban, no gay man who has had sex since 1977 may donate blood. To the AMA, the Red Cross, and America's Blood Centers, this doesn't make sense. Those organizations have endorsed lifting the ban and instituting waiting periods for gay blood donors.

Sprigg's case against allowing blood donation by men who have sex with men doesn't end with his baseless assertions about increased HIV infections. He also highlighted a recent report indicating a decreased need for blood donations - which apparently means that it's a good idea, as a matter of federal policy, to keep stigmatizing men who have sex with men:

There is little evidence that a change in the lifetime deferral policy is needed to maintain an adequate blood supply. As the Washington Times reported this week, medical advances mean that the demand for donor blood is decreasing. Furthermore, only 0.4% of all blood donor deferrals are because of the exclusion of men who have sex with men.

His testimony makes clear that Sprigg is no public health expert. Where he has made a name for himself, however, is in spreading malicious smears against LGBT people, whom he once suggested should be "export[ed]" from the country. While media outlets like to pretend that FRC is a serious policy institute, it has made clear yet again that anti-LGBT animus and horror stories - not science and evidence - inform its work.


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