A Bay Area congressman is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to lift the ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
Mike Honda (D-San Jose) started an online petition to try to get the FDA to overturn the ban. He says the ban is outdated, discriminatory and based on decades-old fears that have been discounted by science.
“The FDA should end the ban and revise its policy and focus on behavior and individual risk, and not on sexual orientation,” Honda said Monday.
After holding a news conference Monday afternoon, Honda was joined by other leaders - including Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and County Supervisor Dave Cortese - for a blood drive outside the county administration building on Hedding Street.
Honda's online petition has more than 51,000 signatures so far.
The South Bay congressman is not the first Bay Area politician to take a stance against the law. In August 2013, then-mayor of Campbell Evan Low hosted a blood drive and tried to roll up his sleeves and donate. Low was turned away because he is gay.
Low said it was discrimination and called on the FDA to repeal the ban.
“I could host the blood drive but I could not donate blood myself,” Low said.
Gay and bisexual men have been turned away from blood donation centers since 1977.
Now, every pint of blood is tested for HIV/AIDS.
“There’s a lot of bias and fear associated with the issue,” Honda said. “In 2014, we need to apply science and data to this issue.”
Even with medical advances, the FDA stands by the policy, saying on its website that men who have had sex with men have an increased risk for HIV:
"FDA's deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor's sexual orientation."
The American Red Cross and the America Medical Association support the proposal that would allow gay men to donate. The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia allow gay men to donate.