GMHC suggested the population to consider should include gay men who have had only one sex partner in the past six months. Spain and Italy, two countries with more progressive donor policies, hold everyone to that standard regardless of sexual orientation.
Schaefer takes the point one step further. "A straight person could donate today after having unprotected sex with hundreds of partners, and in the United States they won't ask about that behavior," he said. He added that four out of five gay men are HIV negative, which he estimated means 2 million additional people could be blood donors.
A 2010 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles estimated that if gay men who had not had sexual contact for the past 12 months were allowed to donate blood, more than 53,000 additional men would likely make more than 89,000 blood donations. That number may seem small, but blood banks say it could help enormously, especially now, when blood supply shortages are common.
After Denney was denied the chance to donate, he asked some of his friends to help him demonstrate outside the blood drive. They produced signs to raise awareness about the ban and distributed educational material. They also escorted people to the drive, because they wanted people to continue to donate. "A lot of people in the Bible Belt assume you have AIDS if you are a gay man," he said. "We wanted them to understand that is not the case. We are banned based on an outdated policy. When people questioned us, I told them about how I always heard that people who donate blood are heroes. Gay men want to be heroes, too."