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No Thank You

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A medically equipped motor vehicle was stationed outside The Blood Center in Houston, but it was not part of the average daily blood drive. Nor were the people walking in and out of it. Tim Campbell, 73, was one of them. Campbell is openly gay.

"I'm 73. I haven't had any unsafe sex since 1979," he said. "I published a gay newspaper in Minnesota back then. We did stories on this new cancer that was going around in 1979. I've been safe ever since then. And they still won't take my blood."

By "they," he means blood centers that abide by a 1983 FDA ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. That "cancer" he was referring to is HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Little was known about the disease thirty years ago. As a precaution, the FDA approved a lifetime ban on gay male donors. Campbell and several others here in Houston hope to change that. Emily Martin is the coordinator for the National Gay Blood Drive.

"At the time(the FDA implemented the ban) , we didn't have the testing capability that we do now," she said. " I think there was a lot of fear about keeping the blood supply safe and protecting the blood supply. This ban perpetrates the idea that all gay men have AIDS. And it also perpetrates the false side and dangerous side that only gay men have AIDS."

To prove that point, dozens of gay or bisexual men got tested for HIV on the spot.

"I took that paper into the blood donation center here, and showed them I was HIV negative," Adam Van Kirk said.

Van Kirk was turned away.

The ban does not include gay or bisexual women, which leads some to claim its discriminating against a group of people that should be able to contribute to the nation's blood supply.

While there has been a recent effort by representatives for blood centers to get the FDA to reconsider this particular lifetime ban, there are others that affect potential donors outside the gay male community.

"There is a list of other instances and infections that could occur where there is a lifetime ban," said Dr. Beth Hartwell, medical director for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

Outside the center, Campbell used handmade signs to call attention to his cause.

"I've tested negative for HIV dozens of times and they still don't want my blood," he said. "It's time to get over the old fashion fears."

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