Protest against gay blood ban takes places across the US

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Gay men across the US are taking a stand against a federal law preventing them from donating blood.

Some are attempting to give blood on Friday, at 53 donor sites across the country, even though they are currently not entitled to do so.

The demonstration seeks to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to follow an American Medical Association (AMA) recommendation that the ban be changed to reflect individual risks in donors, not their sexual behaviour.

Last month the AMA voted to reject the policy.

Louis Katz, the vice president for America’s Blood Centres, which provides nearly half of America’s blood supply, said one option for the FDA is to adopt policies similar to those used in other counties.

In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a one-year deferral for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood.

They can donate – providing they refrain from having sex with men for 12 months.

The one-year deferral was chosen in part because of Hepatitis B, which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men.

While there is a four-week window between transmission and detection of HIV, Hepatitis B can take up to a year to be cleared by the body.

“Now we’ve seen, with the testing that we have today, that the blood pool has shown to be very safe without having to go through this regulation,” said Dr Emily Blodget, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Southern California. “To be honest, (HIV infection) could happen with anyone now. We need to be just as concerned with heterosexuals as homosexuals.”

Greg Gross, who works for a Des Moines, Iowa, HIV prevention group, said the ban no longer serves a legitimate public health purpose.

“It’s because of this stigma and old belief that most gay men have HIV”, he said.