Man says he was rejected by blood bank for seeming gay

An Indiana man says a blood donation center rejected him as a donor because he appears to be gay--even though he isn't.

Aaron Pace, 22, recently visited Bio-Blood Components Inc., in Gary, which pays up to $40 for blood and plasma donations. But during the interview process, he said, he was told he couldn't give blood because he seems gay.

Though Pace is "admittedly and noticeably effeminate," according to the Chicago Sun-Times, he says he's straight.

"It's not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can't," Pace told the paper. "And I'm not even a homosexual."

Even though the blood bank sounds like it is engaging in a discriminatory practice, it would only be following the law by rejecting Pace were he gay. In 1983, amid the early panic over AIDS, the Food and Drug Administration banned all men who had had sex with other men since 1977 from giving blood. At that time, there were no effective screening tests to identify HIV-positive blood.

Nowadays, all donated blood is tested for HIV and other infectious diseases before being given to hospitals. And a recent study found that the gay ban costs hospitals 219,000 pints of blood each year.

And yet, last year, the Department of Health and Human Services decided to maintain the policy--though an FDA committee called it "sub-optimal," and suggested that it would be better to develop a screening system based on individual behavior, not broad characteristics like sexuality.

Curt Ellis, the former director of The Aliveness Project of Northwest Indiana, an HIV education group, called the ban "unfair, outrageous and just plain stupid."

As for Pace, he's still mad about being rejected. "I was humiliated and embarrassed," he said. And just to be clear: He's not gay--not that there's anything wrong with it.