American Morning

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June 14th, 2009
01:16 PM ET

Despite shortage, blood donors turned away

From CNN's Ben Tinker

NEW YORK – Montclair State University junior Dustin Weinstein recalls the excitement leading up to his first blood drive.

"I had never been to donate blood before," he says, "and I actually believe it was a friend of mine who told me they were going to be on campus."

But then came the lengthy screening questionnaire, and his hopes of helping others in need were dashed.

"The question said, 'Are you a male who's had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977?'" he recalls. "I said yes, and sure enough, they came back to me with a pink slip that said 'You're being chosen to be deferred.'"

Weinstein didn't realize that a more than two-decade old FDA policy bars him and millions of other men – who admit to same-sex contact – from giving blood.

AIDS activist Phil Wilson calls the policy outdated. "I think in 1985, there's a lot we didn't know about HIV. There's a lot we didn't know about prevention. There's a lot we didn't know about treatment. But now we know a lot more."

Wilson is not alone. The American Association of Blood Banks has tried to get the FDA to loosen the restriction. They're not only running low on blood; donations are steadily declining as the need for healthy blood continues to rise.

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Filed under: Controversy • Health