In 1985 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began enforcing a ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men anytime after 1977 for fear of drawing HIV-contaminated blood. Though much has happened in the last 30 years, and even with today's advanced HIV screenings, they refuse to change their stance on the ban.
This can be a particularly difficult thing for men in the closet, as I am at work. My school has an annual blood drive, and as a teacher, I am always asked to give blood. I always say that I can't, my usual excuse is that it is because of medicine I take for my blood pressure. Of course, there is nothing with my blood pressure medicine that prevents me from giving blood; however, the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood is the real reason. I just don't want to answer the questions that will be asked and have someone possibly overhear. I have always been honest when the American Red Cross asked me if I have ever had sex with another man; I just don't like lying, even though I keep closeted to my students. The fact is though I am disease free and have not had sex in a while, so I think I should be able to give blood. Which is why I find the idea of a National Gay Blood Drive on July 12 to be intriguing because it will hopefully bring awareness and maybe change to the issue of gay and bisexual men donating blood in the United States.
Ryan James Yezak, the director of the upcoming documentary "Second Class Citizens," hopes to bring awareness and hopefully change this ban with the first ever National Gay Blood Drive on July 12. All across the country on July 12 from 9am to 5pm PST, gay and bisexual men, (also known as "MSM donors") can show up to a designated blood donation center where a mobile HIV testing center will be waiting. The men will be tested, and once the test is negative, they can attempt to donate blood. When the men are rejected from giving blood, their HIV test results will be compiled and delivered to the FDA, to show the administration why they should lift their ban.
In a press release about the Blood Drive, Yezak says:
"The ban is outdated, and as a result, countless otherwise eligible gay and bisexual men are unable to contribute to the nation's blood supply and help save lives. Especially a time when blood shortages are increasingly common. Not only that, but the ban perpetuates negative stereotypes and stigma. Whether intentional or not, it is discrimination based on sexual orientation."
The American Medical Association (AMA) also recently came out against the gay blood ban, saying the ban is "discriminatory" and "not based on sound science." Canada will be listing their ban on gay men giving blood by the end of this summer. Canadian Blood Services will impose a five-year deferral period. Thus, gay men can donate blood so long as they haven't had sex with another man within the last five years. Multiple countries already permit gay men to donate blood, and some even have a shorter deferral period than Canada. In Britain and Australia the deferral period is one year, while in South Africa it is six months.