Since 1983, the Food & Drug Administration has barred gay and bisexual men from being eligible blood donors.
The ban originated during the early days of AIDS but now activists locally and across the country are working to change what they call an outdated policy. The National Gay Blood Drive is Friday.
"The main emphasis of the event is to create awareness of the FDA policy," said local organizer Josh Neumeyer, in an email. "The FDA has indicated that it is open to revising the policy if an alternative screening process can be created which effectively maintains the safety of the nation's blood supply."
On Friday, Neumeyer said that gay and bisexual men can go to Hoxworth Blood Center in Cincinnati (3130 Highland Avenue) with an eligible friend who will donate on their behalf. There will also be a petition to be sent to the White House urging a change in the policy.
Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood, a national news release said, adding that millions of healthy Americans are not allowed to donate due to the FDA policy. In response, the National Gay Blood Drive will take place in more than 60 U.S. cities on July 11 to bring attention to the ban. The drive – which is open to everyone – is organized by filmmaker and activist Ryan James Yezak with the help of local leaders and volunteers from participating cities.
Yezak organized the drive for the first time last year when he was unable to speak to the FDA about the ban for his documentary Second Class Citizens.
“The policy is outdated, and as a result, otherwise eligible gay and bisexual men are unable to contribute to the nation’s blood supply and help save lives,” said Yezak. “In addition, the ban perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes and a negative stigma about the gay male population. The current lifetime deferral focuses on sexual orientation, and we are calling on the FDA to change its policy so that it instead focuses on sexual behavior and individual risk. ”