Protest held in Bakersfield for national gay blood drive

Protest held in Bakersfield for national gay blood drive
Robert Peterson holds up a slip of paper showing he's HIV negative during a protest as part of national gay blood drive Friday, July 12, 2013, in Bakersfield, Calif.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The first national gay blood drive was held Friday in dozens of cities across the country.

Activists were protesting an Food and Drug Administration ban on blood donations from men who’ve had sex with other men. The ban has been in place since 1977.

The FDA claims these men as a group have a higher risk of exposure to and transmission of infectious diseases like HIV or hepatitis.

Friday, gay men organized a protest outside Bakersfield's Houchin Community Blood Bank.

The men were tested for HIV, they showed their negative HIV test results and attempted to donate blood. But, because of their sexual orientation, men such as Matt Guenther were rejected from donating blood.

“There’s so many thousands of gay men who have clean blood, that we want to donate,” said Guenther, “and we’re not able to because of this outdated ban.”

Robert Peterson called the ban archaic, needless and discriminatory.

“The discrimination the gay community suffered 30 years ago is still being suffered today,” said Petersen.

“HIV wasn’t even named,” said Petersen. “They didn’t even know what caused AIDS back then.”

Community activist Audrey Chavez wants the FDA to revisit this ban.

“I’m saddened by the fact,” said Chavez. "This is a policy that needs to be revisited, it needs to be erased, and we need to save lives.”