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Phila. Protesters Say Gay Men Shouldn't Be Singled Out When Donating Blood

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The US Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it is relaxing the prohibition on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men.

But that didn't go far enough for some gay rights activists in Philadelphia.   They protested today outside the local FDA office, in the 200 block of Chestnut Street.

It was a small, quiet protest:  half a dozen people holding signs with slogans such as "Blood is Blood."

But to organizer Ed Coffin, it was important.

"I'm HIV negative, I'm (blood type) O negative, and I would love to give blood," he told KYW Newsradio, "and the only way I can do that right now is by lying on the questionnaire."

Coffin (far right in photo) says the protest was planned before the FDA announced its new rules that will allow gay men to donate blood beginning one year after their last sexual contact.  But he says he moved forward with today's demonstration because he believes no waiting time is necessary.

"If they can go on a case-by-case basis to figure out what the HIV risk level is for heterosexuals, they should do the same thing for homosexuals," he said.

The FDA says the one-year deferral was recommended by an independent panel of experts.  It says it will monitor the effect of the policy change through a national blood surveillance system.

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