Group pushing to allow gay men to donate blood

July 11, 2013 4:41:56 PM PDT
For decades, the FDA has banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood. On Friday, people all around the country and in Houston will be protesting that decision. They say being banned from giving blood is discrimination.

When it comes to donating blood, answering yes to one of several questions can permanently ban a person from donating. In the early 1980s, the FDA made one of those questions, "Are you a man who has ever had sex with another man?" The decision was made after the discovery that HIV could be transferred via blood transfusion.

"Due to the testing that was even not available at that time, the FDA decided that to prevent HIV from entering the blood supply, that certain individuals would not be allowed to donate blood," said Dr. Beth Hartwell, the medical director of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

Now organizers of the National Gay Blood Drive want to raise awareness that gay blood donors who are not HIV positive are being turned away.

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center and other blood-gathering organizations support changes to the permanent ban. They say men who have not had sex with other men for at least one year should be allowed to donate blood.

"Now we have better testing methods in place to test the blood supply for HIV, as well as other infectious diseases," Hartwell said.

Other bans include individuals who have had any type of hepatitis since age 11, anyone who has had malaria, and even survivors of certain types of cancer.

Every single blood donation is tested for HIV and 10 other infectious diseases.

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