The recently announced outcome of a Minnesota lawsuit forces one of the nation’s largest plasma companies to accept blood from transgender donors who were previously considered too high risk.
CSL Plasma is one of three companies that are responsible for collecting over 75% of the total plasma donated in the U.S. For decades, the FDA has recommended caution when collecting blood and plasma from men who have sex with other men, as these individuals pose a higher than average risk of transmitting bloodborne diseases like AIDS. CSL apparently adhered to this guidance by not collecting plasma from biological men who identify as transgender women or nonbinary people, since these individuals are likely to engage in sexual relationships with other men.
However, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) announced Wednesday that CSL has now agreed to take blood from practically anybody after it was sued by the department for not accepting plasma from a male-to-female transgender person and a nonbinary person. The suit was launched in 2016 when a transgender woman filed a complaint with MDHR. A nonbinary person has been involved in the legal effort since 2019. A settlement was reached Monday.
Under the terms of this agreement, CSL will “ensure no employee refuses a potential donor because of their gender identity,” allow “donors to self-identify their gender,” subject their employees to “LGBTQ+ equity training,” and “submit reports to MDHR documenting the reason for deferring any donor whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth,” per MDHR.
It is not clear how this new policy will interact with existing FDA rules, which are based on scientific study of viral transmission patterns. Presently, men are not allowed to donate blood if they have had sex with another man in the three months prior to donation. However, if a company taking blood donations is to recognize a transgender woman as such, this individual would not be considered a man having sex with a man, even if both parties in the interaction have XY chromosomes and male genitalia. This presents a potential loophole that would allow biological men having sex with biological men to donate blood whenever they want in spite of the FDA.
Meanwhile, a study published earlier this year shows that over 40% of transgender women have HIV/AIDS, according to U.S. News and World Report. Unfortunately, existing methods of screening blood for the virus are “still not 100% effective in detecting infectious diseases in blood from donors with very early infection,” per Medical News Today. This underscores the importance of a three-month period of abstinence before giving blood, the outlet notes.
Despite the potential incongruities this ruling may present, it has been celebrated as a civil rights victory by state leadership.
“With some of the strongest civil rights laws in the country, Minnesota continues to work toward becoming a state where transgender and non-binary Minnesotans are accepted, protected, and celebrated,” said Gov. Tim Walz. “Every victory like this brings us one step closer to our vision of One Minnesota.”