Since 1983, the FDA has banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood. It's a ridiculous, outdated and stigmatizing practice; today, the National Gay Blood Drive hopes to draw attention to the fact that such a shitty policy still exists and to call for change.
The ban was put in place before a reliable HIV blood test had been developed, during the height of the AIDS crisis. Uh, well, a reliable test exists now, and it has for almost thirty years. Furthermore, the American Medical Association opposes the ban as "discriminatory and not based on sound science," and the American Association of Blood Banks, America's Blood Centers and the Red Cross have publicly stated that "the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men should be modified and that donor deferral criteria should be made comparable with criteria for other behaviors that pose an increased risk for transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections."
However, the FDA still designates men who have had sex with other men "as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion" and thus ineligible to donate. Even men who have had sex with a man just one time; even gay and bisexual men in long-term monogamous relationships; even gay and bisexual men who practice safe sex; even gay and bisexual men who are perfectly healthy. (It is not discrimination based on sexual orientation, insists the FDA. Ooooooookay.)
This year, the National Gay Blood Drive asks gay and bisexual men to bring eligible allies to donate blood in their place. The gay and bisexual men will fill out a message to the FDA, the eligible allies will fill out name tags and donate blood, and then the messages and name tags will be sent to the FDA. The point is to "visually convey to them to them how much we could contribute to the nation's blood supply should they change their ban," according to a promotional video. There's also a White House petition in place asking for the prohibitions to be lifted — you can sign it here, if you're so inclined.
There is a constant demand for blood donations in this country. It's not only discriminatory to prohibit willing, healthy men from helping out — it's also just stupid and a completely unnecessary hindrance. So hopefully this drive, which is the second of its kind, will be the last.
Image via gayblooddrive.com.