At 53 donor sites across the country, including Memorial Blood Centers in St. Paul, gay men are offering to donate blood today, even though they expect to be turned away.

The blood drive is in protest of 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 American Medical Association recommends that the ban reflect individual risks in donors, not their sexual behavior, and protestors are pushing the Food and Drug Administration to follow suit.

The ban began as HIV was discovered in the blood supply. Now all blood is tested for the virus and other pathogens such as hepatitis. But donors are asked at the American Red Cross and other donation centers whether they are men who have sex with men. If they are, they're asked to leave.

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