Tony Leys and Heidi Hall, Gannett
July 11, 2013
Gay men across the nation plan to offer to donate their blood Friday, even though they expect to be turned away.
The blood drive, targeting 53 donor sites nationally, is designed to protest a 1977 federal policy barring gay and bisexual men from donating 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, who is coordinating an event in Nashville, Tenn., where demonstrators will attempt to donate blood at the American Red Cross.
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.
The original ban was put into effect as HIV was first being discovered in the blood supply. Since then, all blood is tested for the virus, along with other pathogens such as hepatitis. Still, when donors enter the American Red Cross or other donation centers, they’re asked on a questionnaire whether they are a man who has sex with men. If they are, they’re asked to leave.