National Gay Blood Drive event planned for Birmingham Friday

In protest of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's ban that keeps gay and bisexual men from donating blood, a{}local blood drive, which is part of a nationwide{}protest{}against the ban, is planned for Friday.

The Birmingham{}event{}was planned for 7:30 am to 3 pm at LifeSouth Community Blood Centers on West Oxmoor Road.{}Men who{}were gay or bisexual and wished to donate blood couldn't Friday.

The activists plan to collect the number of people rejected and report the data to the FDA. Ten men who were gay or bisexual participated in Friday's Birmingham event.

The FDA states: "Men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion."

In June, The American Medical Association recommended lifting the ban{}noting it was "discriminatory" and "not based on sound science."

That ban has been in place since the mid-80s when little was known about how the{}HIV virus was spread.

Supporters of lifting the ban said in the years since the ban was enacted, better tests have been developed to detect{}HIV{}in donated{}blood.

The drive is being put on by director Ryan James Yezak of Second Class Citizens, a feature-length documentary that takes an all-encompassing look at discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The American Red Cross, America's Blood CEnters, and the AABB issued the following statement regarding the National Gay Blood Drive:

AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks), America's Blood Centers and the American Red Cross issued the following statement regarding the "National Gay Blood Drive" scheduled for July 12. The event was designed by organizers to increase attention on the lifetime blood donation deferral for men who have had sex with other men (MSM):

"While we appreciate the organizers' interest in raising awareness of this issue, we are concerned that the event has the potential to disrupt blood center operations. Staff resources, which are already at capacity at many blood donation centers, will be needed to accommodate a larger-than-usual turnout of presenting donors who know they will be deferred under current eligibility guidelines.

Blood donation eligibility in the United States is determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AABB, America's Blood Centers and the Red Cross believe the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men (MSM) should be modified and donor deferral criteria should be made comparable with criteria for other behaviors that pose an increased risk for transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections.

The U.S. suggested modification calls for a one-year MSM deferral. On June 22, 2013, Health Canada changed its MSM blood donor deferral period from a lifetime deferral to five years. However, with any ban, active MSMs will remain ineligible to donate blood.

We strongly support the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donors who engage in similar risk activities. We support ongoing efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health to fund research to evaluate deferral policies and prevent potential risks to the blood supply.

Maintaining a safe and available blood supply continues to be our highest priority."