Local drive protests rule banning gay men from donating blood

PORTLAND, Ore. - A nationwide blood drive has thousands of people lining up to donate - folks who know they'll never actually get a chance to give blood because they're gay.

The Food and Drug Administration has prohibited gay men from donating blood since the 1970s out of fear that they will transmit diseases, such as HIV.

Friday's National Gay Blood Drive, put on by the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers and AABB (American Association of Blood Banks), is aiming to change that law.

In North Portland, there was a big turnout to protest the law. Twenty-five men said they had wanted to give blood, but had received deferral letters, explaining they were unable to donate blood indefinitely.

Among them was Scott Bogart, an 18-year-old healthy pre-med student. His blood type is O negative, meaning he's a universal donor.

"It's heartbreaking," he said. "It's like ... without my blood someone out there could need blood but because of the blood shortages, they won't get it so their life is in danger."

There were two-dozen other men in Portland who were turned down after trying to give blood.

At the American Red Cross Donation Center in North Portland, workers did free HIV testing of these men and planned to send the results to the FDA showing they are disease-free.

The initial reasoning behind the FDA policy enacted in the 1970s was, as the FDA reported, 77 percent of HIV infections come from sexual contact between men.

But this year, the American Medical Association came out against the policy, saying it's not "sound science."

More than 50 cities participated in Friday's protest.

"I feel like a 2nd class citizen"-gay man gets "deferral letter"-refusing blood for "reasons discussed" #liveonk2

Emily Sinovic (@EmilySinovic) July 12, 2013