Blood task force agrees on resolution

by Sara Goo

A University-sponsored task force that examined blood donation regulations agreed Wednesday the Food and Drug Administration’s policy is outdated.
The FDA policy states that men who have had sex with other men, even once, since 1977 may not donate blood.
The task force was initiated in January after then-president of the University Gay Community Sean Wherley publicly vowed to change the policy, which he said discriminates against homosexuals as a group instead of addressing the behavior of individuals.
Members from organizations such as the Minnesota AIDS Project, Memorial Blood Center and Boynton Health Service agreed on a resolution that would change the policy to exclude “any individual who has had anal intercourse even one time within the last 12 calendar months” from donating blood.
Although not every representative from the group was present to sign the resolution, Wherley said he was confident it would be officially approved.
He said he was happy about the progress of the group, but said he regrets that he won’t be able to continue with the efforts to send the resolution to the FDA. Wherley will graduate from the College of Liberal Arts this spring. Jared Erdmann, acting coordinator of the University Gay Community, said he will take Wherley’s place.
Erdmann participated in the task force and said he was surprised members were able to agree on the resolution.
“The first meeting I sensed a lot of tension (among group members),” Erdmann said.
Amelious Whyte, coordinator of the Boynton Health Service blood drives, said he was also surprised by the agreement.
“I’m optimistic just because of the document that was put together,” Whyte said.
The group made one small change from the original draft. The current regulation says donations can’t be accepted from people who have had sex for money or drugs any time after 1977. The group wanted to change the policy so it only excludes those who have engaged in that type of activity within one year prior to donating blood.
Dr. Edward Ehlinger, director of Boynton, said group members decided against the clause because they didn’t have enough scientific information to support a change to the policy.
Ehlinger said the next step is to send the document directly to the FDA and the national Assistant Secretary of Health for recognition. If the FDA does not immediately recognize it, Ehlinger said he expects the task force members to gather support within their own organizations. “I think we have a good chance,” Ehlinger said.