This past Friday, the National Gay Blood Drive held its second annual nationwide effort to protest the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban against gay and bisexual men donating blood. The ban was imposed in 1983 when there was no effective or simple test to detect HIV.
A FDA spokesperson told TIME that the agency would be willing to consider a policy change if available data showed that lifting the ban provided no additional risk to recipients of donated blood.
“Although scientific evidence has not yet demonstrated that blood donated by [men who have sex with men] or a subgroup of these potential donors does not have a substantially increased rate of HIV infection compared to currently accepted blood donors, the FDA remains willing to consider new approaches to donor screening and testing,” the agency writes in an e-mail.
Meanwhile, the National Gay Blood Drive recently launched a White House petition calling on the FDA to change the policy. The White House will issue a response if the petition receives 100,000 signatures by July 30.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has already voted to end the ban because of new HIV detection techniques. “The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” says AMA board member Dr. William Kobler in a statement. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”
The Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability voted to keep the ban.
Read more on the National Gay Blood Drive and the FDA ban.