BLOOD DONATION: Demonstrating Gay Men Ban

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Donating blood can be intimidating, but York Tanenzer never minded. Tanenzer says, “It felt good to help other people.”

And since he came out as openly gay, Tanenzer has still wanted to donate, he just hasn't been allowed to. Tanenzer says, “I thought that it was ridiculous. But there wasn`t anything I could do about it.”

Medical director for Live Serve Blood Center, Sara Shunkiler says, “We are not now or ever have been interested in what people are considered to be in their sexual orientation. But really we have to go by what the FDA defines as high risk behavior.”

Hoping to change the FDA`s policy, gay men are trying to prove that their blood is as good anybody else's.

Friday, they were encouraged to take part in a nationwide effort, taking HIV tests and showing the negative results at local blood centers, illustrating how many donations they're missing out on.

Volunteers say the rule is outdated and unnecessary, especially because all licensed centers already test all donations for HIV. However, an HIV infection has a 10 day window in which an HIV positive donation could show up as negative on the test. Shunkiler says, “Because of that the FDA feels that doing this behavior based screening also augments our ability to detect potentially infected units.”

Tanenzer says, “That`s for any population so the risk is already happening with their current donors.”

For now, the only blood drawn from Tanenzer will be for his HIV test.