Archaic. Discriminatory. Outdated. Unnecessary. Just dumb. These are a few of perfectly valid adjectives for the FDA and HHS ban on gay male blood donors. Now you can take a stand in Houston during the National Gay Blood Drive.
But bring a friend to Friday’s event (video above), because despite best efforts of activists and the medical community, your gay blood is not welcome. In fact, that’s the point of the National Gay Blood Drive: Bring an ally to donate crucial blood in your place, because the United States bars any gay or bisexual man from giving blood.
Due to fears associated with the gay connection to AIDS in the early ‘80s, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 – even once, even with a condom – is barred for life from giving blood. That might have made sense for a couple of years after the 1983 policy went into effect, but every donation in the U.S. is screened for HIV anyway, so now the ban is plain ignorant.
And biased, says Emily Martin, an organizer of the Houston event in the Medical Center area during Friday’s national drive. Sister events will take place in 60 other cities across the U.S.
“To me this policy is not only discriminatory, but it also doesn't seem like the most effective way to keep the blood supply safe,” Martin tells Project Q Houston. “It not only perpetuates the stigma that all gay men have HIV/AIDS, but it also dangerously promotes the idea that gay men are the only ones who have HIV/AIDS. Quite simply, I'm happy to do whatever I can to point that out and encourage what to me seems like a necessary change.”
During last year’s first gay blood drive, gay and bisexual men showed up to donate blood and were turned away to make a statement. That was that. This year, it’s more “How to drain friends and influence people.”
“We want to create a positive experience for everyone involved, including the donation centers, the ally donors, and the gay/bisexual participants,” Martin says. “We think with enough support we can really make a difference in this issue, and so anyone who feels the policy should change should definitely come and make their voice heard.”
Whether you’re an ally or a gay man thinking of bringing one to donate at the Bill T. Teague Donor Center on Friday, there’s plenty of motivation to do it. And plenty of room for you and yours to make an appointment or drop in, she adds.
“We can accommodate 3,000 participants nationwide, and are expecting – this is purely an estimate – approximately 50 at the Houston event,” Martin says. “We've had a wonderful response so far, people seem to be really passionate about the issue, and they are ready to see a change.”