Mass. Medical Society supports bill that would end discrimination against gay men wishing to donate blood

Posted in discrimination, Health Policy, HIV, Uncategorized on July 13th, 2017 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Mass. Medical Society supports bill that would end discrimination against gay men wishing to donate blood


Earlier this month, Jimmy Kimmel took to Twitter and leveraged his significant social media profile to encourage blood and platelet donation.

Staff and volunteers attached to blood donation centers across the nation have in recent weeks furiously stepped up donor recruiting efforts.

The summer season – and, specifically, the Fourth of July holiday – is a predictable time in which a blood shortage or “summer slump” may occur.  No matter the season, however, blood supply shortage puts patients’ lives at risk, including those who may need blood after an accident or who are facing treatment for cancer and blood diseases.

The media coverage of the nation’s most recent shortage brings to the forefront the fact that an entire segment of the United States is barred from giving blood, and a shift in that policy would increase the pool of potential donors and likely lessen the shortage and save additional lives.

The Massachusetts Medical Society is proud to support Rep. Daniel Cullinane (D – 12th Suffolk) and of HB 3597, An Act relative to eliminating discrimination in blood donations. This bill would require blood donation facilities not to discriminate against prospective donors on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, while allowing those facilities to require proof of a negative HIV test prior to accepting donated blood.

Currently, FDA regulations recommend that men who have sex with men be deferred from donating blood.

The MMS has a long history of advocating to remove discrimination based on sexual orientation. MMS policy “strongly supports the rights of individuals to health, happiness, and liberty regardless of sexual orientation…and urges all governments to recognize these rights.” Accordingly, MMS policy favors lifting the FDA deferral of blood donation for men who have sex with men: “The MMS supports a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.” Accordingly, we recognize the importance of testing donated blood for HIV/AIDs, and we commend this legislation for stipulating that blood donation facilities may require individuals to provide negative HIV test results prior to donating to ensure the safety of our Commonwealth’s blood supply.

We wish to note that, while our policy refers specifically to enacting policy change on a federal level to address this issue, making this change at the state level is consistent with the MMS’s anti-discriminatory stance. Massachusetts has a chance to be a leader on this important shift in policy, and we as a medical society stand proudly with Rep. Cullinane at the forefront of this change.

Furthermore, this bill would not only combat discrimination based on sexual orientation; it would also save lives by increasing the supply of donor blood. The Commonwealth currently faces a shortage of donated blood: the American Red Cross issued an emergency call for blood and platelet donations this year. This bill would add to the pool of potential donors in Massachusetts.

The MMS urges the Committee on Public Health to report H.3597 out of Committee favorably.






2015 Shattuck Lecture: CDC’s Dr. Tom Frieden on the Current and Future States of Public Health

Posted in Annual Meeting 2015, Drug Abuse, HIV, opioids, Public Health on May 2nd, 2015 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on 2015 Shattuck Lecture: CDC’s Dr. Tom Frieden on the Current and Future States of Public Health

Describing public health as the means that will “account for most of our health progress in the years to come,” Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Dr. Tom Frieden spoke of the achievements and challenges in public health in delivering the 2015 Shattuck Lecture at the Massachusetts Medical Society’s annual meeting on Friday, May 1.

In a talk that was both entertaining and instructive and supported with statistical data, Dr. Frieden touched on a myriad of subjects, including antibiotic resistance, the opioid epidemic, the state of HIV care, tuberculosis, the impact of vaccines, the threats and improvements in cardiovascular care and hypertension, the continuing and new dangers of tobacco and nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes, and the public health actions of a responsive government.

Among the highlights from his address:

On infection and the spread of drug-resistant bacteria: “The obsession to increase the population impact of our efforts is routinely complicated by infection, which could eventually undermine much of modern medicine. Our Antibiotic Resistance Initiative could reduce many infections over the next five years.”

On clinical care working with public health: “The intersection of clinical health care and public health is one of the essential concepts that underlie public health, and all too often they are going in different directions. There’s a lot we can learn from each other.”

On the Ebola crisis: “We learned two big lessons from the Ebola crisis. Every country needs to have a core public health capacity and the world has to move faster with outbreaks and epidemics.”

On the role of government: “The appropriate role of government is getting people to make healthy choices, with free and open information, by protecting individuals from harm caused by others, and by taking societal action to protect and promote health. These are the public health actions of a responsive government.”

On the responsibilities of individuals, providers, and government: “Until we have a collective responsibility for health-inducing environments, we will continue to have challenges.”

On the main goal of the CDC: “The goal of the CDC is a safer U.S and a safer world, to prevent avoidable catastrophes, to detect threats early, and to respond rapidly and effectively.”

Slides from Dr. Frieden’s presentation are available here.

A video of the full talk is available here:

March Physician Focus: HIV and AIDS

Posted in HIV, Physician Focus, Public Health on February 28th, 2014 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on March Physician Focus: HIV and AIDS

In a little more than three decades, medical science has taken HIV  infection from the prospect of certain death to a manageable, treatable condition.  Yet it remains a leading cause of illness and mortality in the U.S. and the world.

More than one million people in the U.S. now live with HIV, and about 16 percent of those do not know they are infected.  Some 50,000 new HIV infections occur each year, and 15,000 people die each year from AIDS. Worldwide, 34 million people are living with HIV, with about 2.5 million new cases a year.

The February edition of Physician Focus Today discusses the struggle with HIV and AIDS through the eyes of a physician who treated his first AIDS patient just days after the Centers for Disease Control on July 3, 1981 released its first report on a mysterious condition that was later to be identified as HIV.

Thomas Treadwell, M.D., (photo, right) Director of the Infectious Disease Clinic at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, recalls the early days of the AIDS epidemic, the medical community’s response, and how far we’ve come in treating this disease. Hosting the program is  primary care physician Bruce Karlin, M.D. (left).

The topics of conversation also include how the infection is treated, the importance of testing, and the public health benefits of treating patients.

Physician Focus is available for viewing on public access television stations throughout Massachusetts. It is also available online at,, and

State HIV Testing Law Allowing for Verbal Consent Takes Effect

Posted in HIV on July 26th, 2012 by MMS – Comments Off on State HIV Testing Law Allowing for Verbal Consent Takes Effect

A new Massachusetts law took effect this week that removes the requirement for written informed consent prior to HIV testing, and now allows for verbal informed consent from the individual being tested.

Although there is no longer a statutory requirement to document verbal consent, some health care facilities are advising documentation of consent in the medical record. Written consent is still required for the release of testing information, but interpretations vary as to what form of consent fully complies with the law.

This week, the Department of Public Health issued a complex advisory (.pdf) on how the new law may change clinical practice.

The MMS is interested in hearing questions from our members in a variety of settings about how this advisory may change their procedures in their care setting.

HIV confidentiality laws have historically had a wide variety of interpretations in Massachusetts, and the DPH’s latest statement is likely to provoke significant discussion.

We will compile questions about the advisory and the law and ask for clarification with the DPH if necessary. Send your questions or comments to