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Happytown: Gay men can't give blood

Local man starts petition to change longstanding ban

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Sometimes just being a blood-filled Good Samaritan isn’t enough. Especially if you’re gay. Because all gay men are petri dishes of bacterial goblins hell-bent on infecting the world with AIDS and hepatitis, they’ve been forbidden from donating blood since 1983 – at least if they’ve had sex with anyone since the gloryhole days of 1977.

That little bit of federally mandated discrimination doesn’t sit well with Seminole State College student Blake Lynch. About a month ago, after being refused the opportunity to donate blood to help a friend who suffers from sickle cell anemia and routinely requires transfusions, Lynch launched a campaign to bring awareness to the issue. Banned4Life.org is aiming to collect 100,000 signatures in order to convince the Food and Drug Administration to lift the ban or at least reconsider the parameters (it has just over 500 signatures now).

“The policy turns away good donors with no regard to their sexual behaviors,” says Lynch, who wasn’t even alive in 1977, in the petition. According to a March 16 article in the Washington Times (which cites Banned4Life’s efforts), Gay Men’s Health Crisis is also supporting a revision, and both groups point out that the American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers are on board with the proposal.

As recently as 2010, the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability voted to keep the stringent guidelines, but signaled a “road map forward,” according to the Times.

It may already be happening. Though the Times cited figures on the FDA website – basically stating that gay men are 8,000 times more likely to have HIV than repeat donors – those figures aren’t there anymore. “The content on this webpage is currently not available but is being updated and will be posted in the near future,” the website now reads.

Lynch is hoping to turn the negative into a positive (so to speak) by encouraging 20 major colleges to host blood drives on Oct. 19, so that those who can give blood – i.e., not gay men – can do so, and also sign the petition. Lynch says Rollins College is helping Banned4Life host an event that day at Lake Eola Park.

“We need blood so bad that they’re letting 16-year-olds donate,” says Lynch, adding that kids are as likely to have sex – and less likely to get tested – than your average gay man. “Our blood can save lives. Our hearts can change the world,” the Banned4Life website boasts. Let’s hope so.

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