KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross is helping one man become a part of history following new guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration.

The new guidelines set by the FDA allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Before the change, donor eligibility policies were based on sexual orientation. 

“I’m a first-time blood donor for the American Red Cross and I am also a gay male giving a blood donation today,” said Doctor Joe Stabb who is a professor at the University of Tennessee.

Stabb can now add blood donor to his resume. He’s one of the first openly gay men able to donate in East Tennessee.  

“That is significant because a year ago the FDA changed its rulings from an old law in 1979 that barred gay men from giving blood,” Stabb explained.

The old policy was made in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.  

Stabb said he was made aware of the law when he was still a teenager.

“I was 18. I was still in high school and there was a blood drive in the high school. I wanted to give blood. I was unaware at the time of the policies set by the federal government, and I went to give blood and I was told that I was unable to,” said Stabb.

He adds that at the time, the experience was upsetting, but since then he’s found other ways to donate to the Red Cross. However, he’s always hoped someday the guidelines would change. 

“We really want to be able to include as many people as we can. We don’t ever want to shut the doors on anybody. Red Cross is here for anybody,” said Julie Byers with the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross was a huge advocate for having the guidelines changed.  

“Anytime we can open up and expand our donor pool, that’s just a great thing because we need more people to come donate,” stated Byers.

While this is Stabb’s first time giving blood, he said it won’t be his last, and he hopes others will follow.  

“I’m trying to encourage others, no matter what your lifestyle is, or your gender identity is, to be able to give what you can,” he said. 

The American Red Cross said all of its blood supplies go through rigorous testing before it’s sent out. They continue to experience a national blood and platelet shortage and hope this change will bring in new donors