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Gay men fight blood donor ban

11:12 PM, Dec 4, 2013   |    comments
Blake Lynch launched the non-profit "Banned4Life" after he tried to give blood in honor of a friend with sickle cell.
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WXIA --  Blake Lynch, a nursing student in Orlando, is banned from donating blood. His friend, Emmy Derisbrun, has sickle cell anemia and requires life-saving blood transfusions. When he went to donate in her honor, he ran into a ban in place for 30 years. 

Under Food and Drug Administration rules, men who have had sex with men since 1977 are ineligible to donate blood.

Thursday, The Health and Human Services Committee on Blood Product Safety and Availability will discuss that policy and possible changes.

Supporters of the policy say politics, not science, is driving the suggested changes. In a report released Friday, the CDC said men who have sex with other men account for nearly two-thirds of new HIV infections and approximately half of the 1.1 million people nationwide living with HIV.

"We are a high risk group," Lynch told 11Alive's Julie Wolfe. "But we're not the only high risk group." He suggests a question like, "Have you had unprotected sex in the last 12 weeks?" for all donors would make more sense.

The movement for change has gained momentum since the American Medical Association voted in June to oppose the ban. In a statement, AMA board member Dr. Kobler said, "The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science."

After Lynch was banned, he started a non-profit "Banned4Life". Besides advocating changing the ban, the organization hosts blood drives by encouraging eligible donors to give blood in place of those who are banned.

Thursday, Banned4Life plans a "Twitter storm" to coincide with the committee meeting. Thirty-thousand people have signed a petition and plan to tweet for change under #EndTheBan. 

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