Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Blood donations are down in the U.S. this summer. Gay men have been banned from donating blood because it has been connected to the spread of AIDS. But policymakers are re-examining that ban. The debate has raged among officials, and created a national conversation, as reflected in in CNN.com comments.
One commenter shared his personal experience with being unable to donate blood, saying he thinks the ban should be lifted:
My partner of many decades and I have been in a completely monogamous relationship since before many on this board were even born. And even within our relationship, we do nothing that is considered "high risk" of HIV transmission, though we are both HIV negative. Yet we are summarily prevented from donating blood. That is absolutely nonsensical. As the report points out, it is behavior, not the gender of the individuals involved, that matters. We are at FAR lower risk than a huge proportion of the heterosexual population, yet we are prohibited and they are not. This policy has served to stigmatize a group of people instead of keeping the blood supply safe.
Two other personally invested commenters expressed a different view:
So, I'm not allowed to donate blood (due to the fact that I'm gay). … And just so you know, I completely understand why (they) wouldn't completely reverse the ban. While permanent deferral is a bit much, the fact of the matter is anal intercourse between two men is still a risky sexual behavior, especially if protection is not used or used improperly. I say do what England did last September and institute a temporary deferral.
As a gay, HIV negative health care provider who has been free of any sexually transmitted disease, I hold a different view with many other gay people. Until we have routine testing for HIV in the general population, I will err on the side of caution and respectively leave blood donation to the non-gay/bi community.
Many commenters said they believe the ban should be lifted:
How can people be so ignorant. Just because someone has a preference for the same sex doesn't mean they put themselves at risk. I think that all those who are gay have had their constitutional rights violated.
I really don't care who saves my life. Thank you!
Initially the ban made sense. Today it does not. It does not determine risk.
Clean blood is clean and tainted blood is tainted. That's the only distinction. It doesn't matter if it comes from someone who is gay, straight, Chinese, black, Mexican, Republican, Democrat, fat, thin, etc.
Others said they think allowing homosexual men to donate is too risky:
Homosexuals are a high risk group and that is just a fact. Considering use of blood from this high risk group does not solve the problem of declining blood donations. … If the gay community really cared about the health and well-being of society, they would not want to introduce high risk blood into the donation system.
I recently needed 4 liters of blood during open heart surgery. If there is a group of people more prone to carrying the AIDS virus than any other group of people, then I am perfectly fine having that group excluded from donating blood. I don’t care what their sexual orientation is.
"Unwarranted discrimination," Baloney. It's warranted. It's not a matter of "discrimination", it's a matter of common sense.
One commenter suggested there's another undertone to the debate:
I think one thing goes without saying...
The safety of the blood supply DOES NOT matter; offending someone does.
And another said the timeliness of re-examining the ban is important to point out:
So when you're running low on recruits … consider gays. When you're running low on blood … consider gays. I guess a friend in need becomes more friendly.
What do you think about this debate? Should gay men be allowed to donate blood in the U.S.? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.