A new study could end the blood ban on gay men, participants needed in Atlanta

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 7:07 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A new study challenging the stigma behind blood donations by gay men is looking for volunteers in Atlanta. Currently, most gay men are not allowed to donate blood, but changes could be on the way.

Frank Cortez III used to give blood when he was in the military. Donating was something he took pride in but giving the gift of life came to end when he came out as gay.

“We’re really cutting out demographic of people that typically want to help,” said Frank Cortez III.

Gay and bisexual men can only give blood if they abstain from sex for a minimum of three months before donating. Health advocates say the FDA policy is outdated. Cortez agrees.

“It makes me feel like it’s based on an assumption that I am somehow assumed to be dirty or less than. Or guilty of something while the rest of the population is assumed to be the opposite,” said Cortez.

A new study being done in Atlanta and seven other cities across the U.S. could put an end to that controversial ban.

“Science has supported that the ban has been outdated for a long time,” said Steven Igarashi-Ball of Atlanta Pride Committee, which is spearheading the local initiative.

The goal of the study is to modernize the questions donors are required to answers before giving blood. Those questions would better assess an individual risk for HIV infection, instead of a blanket ban on gay and bisexual men.

“We are 40-plus years into the HIV-AIDS pandemic, so we know a lot more,” said Igarashi-Ball. “Really what the study is asking is for the FDA to keep up with modern science and progress and to adjust according.”

Atlanta Pride Committee is desperately seeking out volunteers. Currently, they’re halfway to their goal of 250 local participants. Men ages 18 to 39, who’ve had sex with another man in the past three months are eligible to be in the study.

You can sign up for the study, which is called Advance, online here - or you can visit the Atlanta Pride Committee website here - and if you qualify, you will be compensated.

Frank Cortez says when he’s allowed to give again, he’ll be the one of the first in line.

“Our community does want to give but are excluded in one of the simplest ways to do so. I mean giving blood is not a hard thing,” said Cortez.