RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's being called an important step to dismantling a stigma. The Food and Drug Administration is gearing up to lift a ban that's been preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood to help their communities.
The FDA said Friday it's going to ease restrictions.
Relaxation of the rule would screen potential donors on their risk of contracting and transmitting HIV through a series of behavioral questions.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is backing the proposed change, saying that the United States will be "joining countries around the world in proposing a set of rules that defers donors for risky behaviors, not for who they are."
Secretary Kody Kinsley would be personally impacted. He is the first openly gay cabinet member to serve in this role.
"Over the years, I've had many conversations where people have asked me to sign up (for a blood drive) and I've had to say 'Well I can't and here's why.' It's been an interesting conversation. Every time, people are perplexed," said Kinsley. "It doesn't make sense, and now we're able to participate in that and I think it's really meaningful to move pass stigma."
Candis Cox says there have been many times she's heard the calls for blood donations during crisis, wanted to give back, but stopped short of going to a blood drive.
"It's extremely discriminatory," said Cox.
As a transgender woman, she's felt subjected to the same ban that gay and bisexual men have been facing.
"My blood is not good enough. My ability to be a part of humanity is compromised and it's especially insulting when you find out that they don't fully tests specimen of blood that they get,' said Cox.
The advocacy group GLAAD said "these changes are 40-plus years in the making."
The American Red Cross said it has received the FDA's draft guidance and "is committed to achieving an inclusive blood donation process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect."
"It's one step forward in creating a society where everybody who wants to actually give back has the ability to do that," said Cox.
The change is happening as the American Red Cross is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade.
"Until I can donate, I'll just call on everyone who already can (to) go out there and donate blood. Blood is in short supply. It's a very important resource whether you have cancer or in a car accident, we need blood," said Kinsley.
The FDA's proposal will be open to public comment for 60 days. The agency will then review the comments before finalizing the draft guidance.