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Calif. lawmaker urges FDA to end gay blood ban

Rep. Mike Honda  (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Mike Honda (Blade photo by Michael Key)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A Bay Area congressman is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to lift the ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood, a California-based NBC news affiliate reports.

Mike Honda (D-San Jose) started an online petition to try to get the FDA to overturn the ban. He says the ban is outdated, discriminatory and based on decades-old fears that have been discounted by science.

“The FDA should end the ban and revise its policy and focus on behavior and individual risk, and not on sexual orientation,” Honda said Monday.

After holding a news conference Monday afternoon, Honda was joined by other leaders — including Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and County Supervisor Dave Cortese — for a blood drive outside the county administration building on Hedding Street.

“Despite tremendous advances in the medical and biotech fields, the Food and Drug Administration still bans blood donations from gay and bisexual men,” said Honda. “The American Medical Association now opposes this discriminatory and outdated restriction. Our society is increasingly supporting equality for LGBT people. I will fight this ban that only marginalizes, stigmatizes, and stereotypes healthy people across the country.”



Drawing blood

Mary Coble, blood, art, gay news, Washington Blade

Performance artist Mary Coble draws blood for ‘Deferral.’ (Photo courtesy Corcoran)

Internationally acclaimed queer performance artist Mary Coble will be doing a four-day show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (500 17th St., N.W.) starting Wednesday and running through Aug. 10.

The performance, titled “Deferral,” addresses the Food and Drug Administration’s policy of refusing blood donations from “men who have sex with men.” It is also an installation, constructed in the Corcoran’s Atrium, with an anatomical theater formed by white hospital curtains.

“I will have a pint of blood drawn, and will then use that blood to make marks on the curtains to reference some of the campaign and political slogans surrounding the issue,” Coble says. “The men who are participating with me are gay men, so I am in the position of privilege because I can have blood drawn. They will be stitching using red thread to sew on the curtains to act as a stand-in for their blood, because their blood would not be considered by the FDA.”

The Corcoran’s hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Wednesday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10. For more information, visit


Year in review: Home HIV tests become available

OraSure, OraQuick, HIV, HIV test, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy OraSure Technologies Inc)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for the first time on July 3 an in-home, self-administered HIV test to be sold over the counter.

Known as the OraQuick In-Home HIV test, the test was developed by OraSure Technologies, Inc.

“The test has the potential to identify large numbers of previously undiagnosed HIV infections, especially if used by those unlikely to use standard screening methods,” the FDA said in a new release.

“Knowing your status is an important factor in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV,” said Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “The availability of a home-use HIV test kit provides another option for individuals to get tested so that they can seek medical care, if appropriate.”

The FDA says clinical studies of the test showed a 92 percent sensitivity rate, which means that of every 12 HIV-infected individuals tested with the kit, one negative result could be expected.

“A positive result with this test does not mean that an individual is definitely infected with HIV, but rather that additional testing should be done in a medical setting to confirm the result,” the FDA said. “Similarly, a negative test result does not mean that an individual is definitely not infected with HIV, particularly when exposure may have been within the previous three months.”

FDA officials noted that the OraSure in-home test is the first HIV test that allows users to learn their results at home immediately without interacting with a lab or medical professionals.

The officials said the new test’s potential for identifying large numbers of people who don’t know they are infected outweighs concern by some that people who test positive should have immediate access to counseling and medical advice.

Experts estimate that one-fifth of the people infected with HIV are unaware of their status and often contribute to the infection of others.