By Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN) - The American Red Cross says power outages created by recent storms in the East and Midwest cut blood donations, which were already low this summer. In June there was a nationwide shortfall, with donations down more than 10% across the country.
"We are asking people to please call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit us at redcrossblood.org to find a way to donate if they can," said Stephanie Millian, Red Cross director of biomedical communications. "We need people's help."
One group that would like to help, but legally can't, may be moving one step closer to eligibility. Since the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic decimated their community, gay men - or MSMs (men who have sex with men) as they are called by federal agencies –– have not been allowed to donate blood. In June, a group of 64 U.S. legislators led by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services encouraging it to move forward with a study that may lead to the end of the decades-old ban.
"We remain concerned that a blanket deferral of MSM for any length of time both perpetuates the unwarranted discrimination against the bisexual and gay community and prevents healthy men from donating blood without a definitive finding of added benefit to the safety of the blood supply," the letter said.