A new film takes a closer look at the decades old ban that prohibits gay and bisexual men from donating blood. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
"Have you had sex with another man since 1977, and if so, you are not permitted to donate."
Gay rights activists are taking aim at a 1985 rule that bans gay men from donating blood and a new film called "Gay Positive" hopes to shed some light on the controversial issue.
"Everytime there's a national disaster we get this onslaught of media saying 'donate blood, donate blood, donate blood'—yet it discriminates against ten percent of the population," says producer AJ Mattioli.
The rule was put in place by the FDA during the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1985. The rule states that any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 cannot give blood—ever. Producer Gregory Dyrsten says the lifetime ban is offensive and discriminatory.
"I am low risk. I know that I'm HIV negative. I know that I'm disease free—so why is it that you won't let me donate?" asks "Gay Positive" producer and writer Gregory Dyrsten.
"1977 that's a long time ago."
"I had no idea."
"I was shocked by the number of New York City homosexual men who we interviewed that were unaware," Mattioli says.
NY1 reached out the Red Cross and in a statement they said, "The American Red Cross believe the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men should be modified. We strongly support the use of rational, science-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donors who engage in similar risk activities."
Last year, a federal panel looked into the ban and recommended funding continue research rather than overturning it. Gay rights advocates say all blood is screened before it's sent to hospitals leading some to believe the ban is homophobic.
"From what I was told, there are roughly two million men that are not able to donate," Dyrsten says.
"Gay Positive" is being screened at theaters this fall.