Some say fear and prejudice are what's keeping the FDA from allowing men who have had sexual contact with another man to donate blood. America's Blood Centers and the American Red Cross are calling for the federal agency to allow the gay community to donate.
Newschannel 10's Marissa Bagg reports on what impact changing the restriction could make in the panhandle.
Over the last five years Coffee Memorial Blood Center has had to turn away far less than one percent of male donors who acknowledged that they have had sexual contact with another man since 1977. Although that only adds up to a handful of pints of blood a year, they say every donation could save a life.
Robert Marquez knows first hand. 10 years ago he underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix and needed several units of blood.
"My family and I originally thought it was a stomach ache, we went to the doctor and it proved to be more," says Marquez.
Marquez tells us he think homosexuals should be allowed to donate because the need is so great.
"Everybody has a right to give blood and receive blood. I think everyone should be screened no matter your age or preference. It's probably safer now with all the technology thats arisen in hospitals and the medical community," says Marquez.
This is what our local blood bank had to say about the issue.
"Because the testing that is done on every unit that we now collect is so sophisticated that those three organizations say it doesn't matter than we ask that question anymore," says Jim Rutledge with Coffee Memorial Blood Center.
But the FDA has the last word on the issue.
"The safety of the blood supply is extremely important and the FDA's argument is whatever we can do to preserve that safety. You don't want to have safety at the expense of supply you have to balance those things," says Rutledge.
For now Marquez says he will continue to do his part to give back.
"I give blood about once every summer."
Over the last few years the American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers asked the FDA to rethink their policy. Just last month, the FDA turned the recommendation down.