'Gay blood drives' held nationwide to protest ban on gay, bi don - New York News

'Gay blood drives' held nationwide to protest ban on gay, bi donors

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Gay blood drives were held in 61 cities on Friday to protest the Food and Drug Administration's policy prohibiting gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

Gay and bisexual men were asked to show up to a blood drive with a straight or lesbian friend to donate on their behalf.

At Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center on Friday, Krys Shaw, 27, donated blood on behalf of Randy Taylor, 36. Taylor is bisexual. Shaw is a congressional aide for U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-North Side), an advocate for gay rights.

“The cause itself is just something that a lot of the staff on Quigley's team believes in. It's kind of crazy to me that it's taken this long to get some of the rights for our gay friends,” said Shaw.

Quigley took his defense of gay and bisexual blood donors to the House floor on Thursday.

“I know that being gay does not implicitly make someone an unsafe blood donor,” said Quigley.

Shaw is obviously in agreement with her boss, but said that she came to the Howard Brown Health Center on her own.

“I have donated blood before but I think this time is going to mean more than any of the other times just because of what we're doing and what it means,” said Shaw. “I just hope that this is one step closer to getting equal rights for all of our gay friends and gay colleagues.”

“It just feels good that someone was willing to do this for me,” said Taylor. He said it shows that in spite of the quick spread of court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage, the FDA's ban on gay and bisexual donors is another road block.

The FDA said that the decision to defer lifting its ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood is based on risk assessments and unanswered questions, including the root cause of accidental releases of blood not being cleared for use. The FDA said the safety of the U.S. blood supply is one of its highest priorities. After yearly meetings, it determined there is not sufficient data to support a policy change.

There is also a White House petition calling on the FDA to end its ban against gay and bisexual male blood donors. If it gets 100,000 signatures by July 30, the White House must issue a response.

Howard Brown Health Center medical director Dr. Magda Houlberg said the FDA’s policy, developed during the onset of the AIDS epidemic, is outdated.

“Given the current technology, the blood supply is very safe. [The ban] also does perpetuate a lot of stereotypes and assumptions about risk for HIV including the idea that heterosexual people are not going to be HIV positive,” said Houlberg.

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