Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other congressional leaders are calling on the Health and Human Services secretary to review a ban barring gay men from donating blood.
Back in 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services voted against recommending a change to the Food and Drug Administration's policy that bans gay men from giving blood.
Local gay rights groups say it's outdated and creates stereotypes.
"It's not a level playing field to single out gay men," said J. M. Sorrell, spokeswoman for the Northampton-based gay rights organization Noho Pride.
She and others are commending Warren's letter calling for the policy to be reviewed.
"We think it's long overdue, and I think most people in LGBT communities and organizations believe that as well," Sorrell said.
Warren's letter comes after a gay man reached out to her after he had been turned down trying to give blood.
"There was a gay man who wanted to donate blood after the bombing in Boston and couldn't do so," Sorrell said.
Potential donors are screened based on a series of health questions on illnesses, lifestyle choices and other factors.
Being a gay man takes you out of eligibility.
The policy was put in place back in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
On their website, the FDA defends the policy saying:
"FDA's primary responsibility with regard to blood and blood products is to assure the safety of patients who receive these life-saving products. FDA uses multiple layers of safeguards in its approach to ensuring blood safety."
The Red Cross writes on their website they must comply with the policies set by the FDA.
Opponents to the ban, like Sorrell, say it's not safeguarding, it's profiling.
"It's a huge dignity and respect issue, and it's going a long way towards eliminating stereotypes and generalizations about who gay men are."
According to the Red Cross's website, after blood is donated, it is tested for a lengthy list of illnesses before being distributed.
Opponents of the ban say that it leaves people out when blood is desperately needed.
Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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