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Illinois Congressman Joins Push to End Ban on Gay Blood Donors

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Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley has joined more than 80 members of Congress in a renewed push to end a ban on donating blood by men who have engaged in gay sex.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting an update on the agency's reevaluation of the policy.

Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, said Friday that despite blood shortages "perfectly healthy would-be donors are turned away based solely on sexual orientation."

The push comes less than one month after the American Red Cross issued an emergency call for blood and platelet donors of all types.

Nationwide, donations through the Red Cross were down approximately 10 percent for June, resulting in about 50,000 fewer donations than expected.

“We are counting on generous volunteer blood and platelet donors to step up and give now,” Shelly Heiden, CEO for the Red Cross Heart of America Blood Services Region, said in a statement. “Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Each day donations come up short, less blood is available for these patients in need.”

The ban was established in 1983 at the advent of the HIV-AIDS crisis. But lawmakers and others say there is no scientific evidence to support it. There have also been advances in blood screening technology.

The letter says progress in Health Department studies to support a policy change has been slow.

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