Roughly a dozen volunteers turned out Friday at the Memorial Blood Centers facility in St. Paul as part of the first-ever “gay men’s blood drive,” a protest against federal rules that effectively ban gay men from donating blood.
Similar events took place at more than 50 donor sites across the nation, calling attention to a 1983 federal rule that bars blood donations by men who have had sex with other men because of the risk of HIV transmission.
“We feel it’s outdated and discriminatory toward the gay community,” Zachary Fincher, coordinator of the Minnesota event.
The men did not actually make donations, but had their blood screened for HIV and offered to give blood but were turned away.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that men who have had sex with men have a substantially higher rate of HIV infection than the general population, but said in a statement that is “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,” the statement said.
The American Medical Association has called for a policy that would screen blood donors based on their individual risk of HIV, rather than group characteristics.