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Nationwide blood drive rejects US ban on gay blood donors

Nationwide blood drive rejects US ban on gay blood donors

Gay men across the US have joined forces against the 1970’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on gay blood donors.

Gay rights organizations and activists organized a National Gay Blood Drive day yesterday (12 July) where men who have sex with men, also known as MSM, were encouraged to arrive at 53 blood donation centers around the US and attempt to give blood.

Activists anticipated that blood donations from gay men would be rejected, as they have been since 1977 when a federal law prohibited gay and bisexual men from donating after HIV was discovered in blood supplies.

Jason Cianciotto, Director of Public Policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), a New York City-based AIDS organization, said in a statement: ‘Under the current policy, a heterosexual man who has sex with someone who is known to be HIV-positive is subject to a one-year deferral, while a gay or bisexual man who is HIV-negative and always practices safer sex is banned from donating blood for life.’

The GMHC released a statement that read: ‘The demonstration seeks to get the Food and Drug Administration to follow an American Medical Association recommendation that the ban be changed to reflect individual risks in donors, not their sexual behavior.’

Gay rights groups across the nation organized mobile HIV-testing units where potential blood donors could test before giving blood. When their results tested negative for HIV, donors were encouraged to fill out the application to donate blood.

Even though men who’ve had sex with men in the past year would be rejected, National Gay Blood Drive organizers pledged to accumulate all the forms and data to show government bodies the benefit to allowing gay men to donate blood.

‘It’s just ridiculous to me that they don’t allow gay men to donate when there are so many in need of blood," said Dakerri Barber-Rhone, an event coordinator Nashville, Tennessee told USA Today.

‘Now we’ve seen, with the testing that we have today, that the blood pool has shown to be very safe without having to go through this regulation," Dr. Emily Blodget, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Southern California, also said.

‘To be honest, [HIV infection] could happen with anyone now. We need to be just as concerned with heterosexuals as homosexuals.’

FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky wrote in an email: ‘FDA remains willing to consider new approaches to donor screening and testing.

‘If those approaches can assure that blood recipients are not placed at an increased risk of HIV or other transfusion transmitted diseases, FDA will consider a change to its current policy.’

Check out the video below from Ryan James Yezak, who is using the demonstration in his documentary Second Class Citizens.