St. Paul 'blood drive' protests ban on donations from gay, bi men

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The first-ever National Gay Blood Drive is being held in St. Paul and several other major cities Friday as part of a push to lift a federal ban on blood donation by men who have had sex with other men.

The event is being captured in select cities for a documentary titled Second Class Citizens, according to a Memorial Blood Centers news release.

Since 1983, men who have sex with other men are deferred as blood donors because of their increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion, according to the Food and Drug Administration's policy.

CNN reports when HIV began showing up in the nation's blood supply in the 1980s, there wasn't a good test to detect whether HIV was present in donated blood. Scientists also knew that a disproportionate number of gay men were affected by the virus when the policy started.

Currently, all blood is tested for the virus, along with other pathogens such as hepatitis, USA TODAY reported.

At the event, several supporters are expected to be tested for HIV at a mobile unit provided by the Minnesota AIDS Project. The negative test results will be sent to the Food and Drug Administration to visually convey the number of blood donors that could have contributed to the national supply if the ban were lifted.

Blood donations were down 10 percent nationwide in June, according to the American Red Cross.

Blood banks have urged the FDA to review and amend its criteria for prospective donors, the Pioneer Press said.

CNN says the American Medical Association voted in June to oppose the ban, saying it's "discriminatory and not based on sound science."

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