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Donors Turn out in Portland for Gay Blood Drive Event

Gay and bisexual men, and their friends, turned out today to participate in a National Gay Blood Drive event at the American Red Cross donation center in Portland.

Michael Quint, a local organizer of the Gay Blood Drive event, says gay men were only able to donate blood at today's blood drive by proxy - meaning each person had to have a non-gay friend, or a woman, give the blood on their behalf. The ban does not extend to gay women.

Quint says that gay and bisexual men have been prohibited from giving blood by the FDA since 1983, a rule that was implemented at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He says at the time, no one really understood the disease. But today, he says there's no reason to have such a prohibition.

For one thing, says Quint, testing methods now exist to ensure a safe blood supply from all donors. Second, he says sexual orientation is not an indicator of high-risk behavior.

"If I'm a gay man who is in a monogamous relationship with another gay man, there's nothing high risk about that," Quint says. "But under the current situation, you can't give blood because you're in a relationship with a man."

Quint says that he and other activists around the country are trying to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition to send to the federal government, seeking to overturn the decades-old FDA rule.