Legislators call for lift on ban of gay male blood donors

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - American Red Cross officials are asking for blood donations to replenish a shortfall in the blood supply. Donations are down more than 10% across the country after power outages created by recent stores in the East and Midwest.

"We need people's help," said Stephanie Millian, Red Cross director of biomedical communications. "We are asking people to please call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit us at redcrossblood.org to find a way to donate if they can."

There is one group of Americans that legally can't help, even if they're perfectly healthy. After the AIDS epidemic exploded in the gay community in the 1980's, men who have sex with other men (referred to as MSM by the federal government) have been banned from donating blood.

In June, 64 U.S. lawmakers in Washington, DC spoke up about the policy in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. The group, led by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, encouraged officials to move forward with a study that may lead to the end of the ban.

Part of the letter said, "We remain concerned that a blanket deferral of MSM for any length of time both perpetuates the unwarranted discrimination against the bisexual and gay community and prevents healthy men from donating blood without a definitive finding of added benefit to the safety of the blood supply."

The officials said the policy is antiquated and should instead focus more on a potential donor's sexual behavior instead of their sexual orientation.

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