M2 Carrier to Talk MSM Blood Donation on National Panel

Second-year Pritzker student Christian Carrier on November 14 will participate in a significant national panel discussion on the history and policy of blood donation deferral for men who have sex with men (MSM). In the discussion organized by the University Blood Initiative and the American Constitution Society and OUTLaw chapters at Howard University, Carrier will sit among several leading experts and national advocates.

"This comprehensive round table is a long overdue, nuanced conversation between leaders within the LGBTQ+ and Transfusion medicine community," a press release said. "This is a groundbreaking panel, as these groups rarely gather in a public forum to address this issue directly."

Since arriving at the Pritzker School of Medicine, Carrier has become an increasingly prominent advocate for ending the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restriction on MSM blood donation, which currently requires MSM donors to abstain from sexual contact with men for a period of three months. Early this year, he wrote an op-ed that ran in the Chicago Tribune challenging the policy, which he called "outdated and homophobic." Then, over the summer, Carrier appeared on WTTW's Chicago Tonight program to further advocate for an end to the policy, which previously required a one-year period of abstinence in order for MSM to donate and from 1985 to 2015 fully banned MSM from donating blood.

Now, Carrier will have the opportunity to once again push for change alongside policy and science leaders. Also on the panel are:

  • Jason Cianciotto, Vice President of Communications and Policy at GMHC, who helped get the FDA ban reduce to one year in 2015
  • Christy Yates, Director of Laboratory Operations at Northwestern Medicine and an executive board member for the Illinois Blood Banks Association
  • Dr. Brian Custer, Director of Research at the Vitalant Research Institute and a primary investigator on the FDA's ADVANCE study, which is evaluating alternatives to its MSM blood donation deferral policy
  • Dr. Richard Gammon, Medical Director of One Blood in Florida and a prominent blood banking and transfusion expert
  • Dr. Kamille West-Mitchell, Chief of the Blood Services Section at the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Clinical Center

Organizers say the event "aims to shine a new light on the challenges faced by those who are unjustifiably excluded from donating blood, expose future lawyers to novel areas of discrimination and educate future public servants on the history of the MSM deferral and improve the health of our nation's blood supply." The hybrid (in person and virtual) panel discussion from 4:30-6:30 p.m. CT is free, and attendees can register here.

University Blood Initiative was founded at UChicago Medicine in 2017 by clinical research coordinator Aviva Klein, who launched the organization to work toward more stable and equitable blood supplies. The organization now boasts 24 chapters in 11 states.