Chicago blood drive challenges ban on donations from gay men

Gay men across the nation planned to offer to donate their blood Friday, even though they expected to be turned away.

The blood drive, targeted 53 donor sites nationally.

The events were designed to protest a 1977 federal policy barring gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

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.

Currently, donors who enter the American Red Cross or other donation centers, are asked on a questionnaire whether they are a man who has sex with men.  If they are, they’re asked to leave.  Women are allowed to donate, regardless of sexual orientation.

Here in Chicago, gay men showed up to donate at Lifesource Blood Center in Lincoln Park.  They were tested for HIV outside the center, but turned away anyway.  Men who wanted to donate, and the workers who take the blood, called the policy unfair.  Terry Kinsey told WGN, “I’d like to be able to donate blood to help society.  I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with my husband for 17 years.”

Those participating in the blood drive were hoping 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.

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