EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- For the first time in more than three decades, the state of Wisconsin could allow gay men to donate blood.
Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is leading a push to end the ban on blood donation for gay men.
Gay men have not been allowed to donate blood since the aids and HIV epidemic in the 1980's.
Baldwin, who is openly gay, and 84 other democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. It says the ban fosters “an atmosphere that promotes discrimination”. Experts say with technological advances and constant need for blood donors it makes sense to lift the ban.
Leiske Geise, Director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department says health organizations have been concentrating on doing more risk assessments with their blood donors.
“If a male is having sex with another male and is not using protection, it's certainly is a risk factor,” explained Geise.
She says it’s important to look at individual risk factors for men who have sex with men, or MSM, rather than excluding an entire class of people who could be potential donors.
“We have a shortage of blood supply and we regularly have that, excluding the whole group of people without risk factors is certainly a concern,” said Geise.
“We agree with lifting the ban. It is a discriminatory and it's not needed anymore,” said Cheryl Thiede.
Thiede is the Director of Social Services with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin. She says the number of men infected with HIV and AIDS has decreased in the last 30 years.
“We're one of the lowest transmission states,” added Thiede.
Thiede also says the MSM community today takes their health very seriously.
“Gay men understand their risk for HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases and take every precaution they can to protect themselves,” said Thiede.
Experts say with the technology available today, it is much easier to detect blood-transmitted diseases.
“The blood supply is tested so thoroughly. Science has advanced so far. The like hood of transmission through the blood supply is almost completely gone,” explained Thiede.
The American Red Cross says it supports the proposal, but it's looking at several different options to the life-long deferral policy that's in place right now.
The City-County Health Department mentioned holding blood samples longer and doing more extensive testing for all donors who engage in what’s called "high risk activities."
Every health organization we talked to today said maintaining a safe and available blood supply continues to be their highest priority.
We also tried to find out Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s thoughts on the issue, but he didn't return our message.