As the American Red Cross announced an emergency request for blood and platelet donors, State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) called upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rethink its policies on blood donation eligibility.

As the American Red Cross announced an emergency request for blood and platelet donors, State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) called upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rethink its policies on blood donation eligibility.

Currently, the American Red Cross, under an FDA directive, does not accept blood donations from men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977.

"There is such a severe shortage of available blood that the Red Cross issued an emergency appeal for donors, and yet through this ill-advised policy, the group is turning away thousands of willing donors," Leach said.

"Banning homosexual men from donating blood is discrimination, through and through. The FDA claims that homosexual men have a higher risk of carrying disease, but that does not square with its policy allowing straight, sexually active people who have had unsafe sex with multiple partners to donate blood. Does a monogamous homosexual man pose any more of a risk? Absolutely not."

The lifetime ban on homosexual males has been in place since 1983. In a recent statement, the American Red Cross said:

"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 … However, with any ban, active MSMs will remain ineligible to donate blood."

Leach called on the groups to reconsider both the current policy and the recommended modification plan.

"Even a one-year deferral for homosexuals is an affront to them as healthy potential donors. Scientists have the ability to screen blood for disease and dispose of any donation that is not suitable for use. This unfair, unnecessary rule needs to be reversed."

The FDA has held firm on its position despite an increasing need for blood donors.