Gay blood drive events have been held across the US, to protest the ongoing ban on gay men giving blood.

The Food and Drug Administration currently imposes a blanket ban on donating blood for all men who have had sex with men, because of the “increased risk” of sexually transmitted diseases.

The ban was initially put in place in the 1980s following the AIDS epidemic, and critics say it does not reflect modern advances in screening technology.

Rallies have been held in 60 cities across the US to protest the ongoing ban, with over 8,000 people signing a White House petition calling for it to be scrapped.

National Gay Blood Drive founder Ryan James Yezak said: “The policy is outdated, and as a result, otherwise eligible gay and bisexual men are unable to contribute to the nation’s blood supply and help save lives.

“In addition, the ban perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes and a negative stigma about the gay male population.

“The current lifetime deferral focuses on sexual orientation, and we are calling on the FDA to change its policy so that it instead focuses on sexual behaviour and individual risk.”

On the day of the drive, groups of gay and bisexual men rallied outside blood donation centres, alongside allies who are eligible to give blood in their place.

Colby Spencer, who organsed the Las Vegas event, told the Review Journal: “This is really a grass-roots effort… Everybody who’s walked through the doors signed the petition.

“Every sample is tested. The window period applies to straight people, right? So why would they only apply that reason to gay people? It’s 2014, not 1983.”

Some blood banks have themselves voiced support for an end to the ban, with United Blood Services calling for the lifetime ban to be changed to a 12-month deferral, which is in place in the UK.

In South Africa a blanket ban on gay men donating blood was scrapped in May, in favour of new regulations which do not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

(Photos: National Gay Blood Drive)