Twitter halts office blood drives over ban on gay donors

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Social media giant Twitter is putting the brakes on office blood drives until gay and bisexual employees can give, too.

"Twitter will not hold onsite blood drives in any office where local blood donation policies discriminate against broad categories of employees rather than on behavioral risk factors," Twitter spokesperson Natalie Miyake told CBS News.

The San Francisco-based company has 4,300 employees around the world, including more than 35 offices, 12 of which are U.S.-based.

The FDA's blood donation policy currently bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood, even though medical leaders have argued for years that the ban is not scientifically warranted and that there are more effective ways to protect the blood supply.

The Obama administration has recommended ending the lifetime ban, and earlier this year the FDA proposed altering the policy to allow gay men to donate blood, but only if they have been celibate for the previous year.

In July, in a letter to the FDA during the public comment period, Twitter's Vice President of Global Policy, Colin Crowell, wrote to express "deep concerns that both the current and proposed regulations restricting blood donations by men who have sex with men unreasonably removes viable donors from the process and discourages ethical companies from supporting and participating in blood drives."

Crowell told the FDA that "issuing regulations that are discriminatory in nature and not based on actual risk factors" creates a conflict for companies with non­-discrimination policies who want to participate in blood drives.

Miyake said that the issue came to the company's attention a year ago when an employee was turned away when trying to give blood at a company event.

For the past two years, Twitter employees have donated blood at a level three times the average for such drives, according to Crowell's letter, but during another blood drive held in April, many employees expressed concern that Twitter was hosting an activity that, while critical for the public good, "blatantly excludes" some of the company's employees.

According to the FDA website, since 1977 -- the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States -- men who have sex with other men have been "deferred" as blood donors because they are at increased risk for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.

Crowell argues the current regulations ignore a multitude of actual risk factors and "will not make the blood supply any safer."

Twitter's Miyake added, "We are committed to making Twitter a place where everyone feels valued and will not sponsor onsite activities that discriminate against our employees."

Miyake also noted that Twitter received a 100 percent score in the Human Rights Campaign's 2016 Corporate Equality Index and was named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.

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