COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (KRDO) -- Due to the ongoing national blood shortage, Senator Michael Bennet is now among those urging the Federal Drug Administration to lift restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood put in place at the start of the aids epidemic in the 1980s.
Although rules have loosened up in recent years, gay and bisexual men are still not allowed to give blood unless they meet certain requirements of either monogamy or celibacy.
"This year we've had a spike in COVID which has led to the cancellation of hundreds of blood drives, so we are at a two-year low with Vitalant," added Sarah Obarski with Vitalant.
It's a shortage many blood donation centers are dealing with, but even those who've had covid can donate blood.
"The only thing we ask is that if you are experiencing symptoms that you wait two weeks before trying to donate but if you've had covid, if you haven't, if you are vaccinated or not, you are still eligible to donate," said Obarski.
But that's not the case for gay or bisexual men. With the covid pandemic greatly limiting blood donations for the last two years, advocates say it's time for a change.
"I think that the most important thing to recognize is that they do test all of the blood when blood is donated and so policies that discriminate against a certain population of people are really just about discrimination at this point," said Alissa Smith with Inside Out Youth Services.
The CDC does require all donated blood to be tested for infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C.
Smith says the FDA rule restricting gay and bisexual men from donating blood if they had sex with men within the last three months is just unfair.
"Why can't we lift a restriction that harms people anyway so we can get the best and most blood to combat this shortage," said Smith.
Most blood donation sites say they are just following the FDA rules.
UCHealth and Vitalant hosted a blood drive on Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at 2420 E. Pikes Peak Ave. Those who donated blood were treated to free ice cream from The Meltdown, along with loyalty cards from two other local businesses, Kangaroo Coffee and The Carter Payne.
In the meantime, blood is urgently needed in Southern Colorado, you can head to their website for more.