Today is the first-ever National Gay Blood Drive, an activist-created initiative to highlight the even in 2013, gay men are not allowed to donate blood. The discriminatory anti-gay practice has been on the books in various forms since 1977, and codified around the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1983. “Blood banks have been instructed to ask male donors if they have ever had sex with a man,” CNN reports:
If the potential donor responds “yes,” he is instantly removed from the donor pool for life. The policy started in the 1980s when people didn’t know how the deadly virus that causes AIDS spread.At the time, there wasn’t a good test to detect whether HIV was present in donated blood, and HIV was getting into the nation’s blood supply. Scientists also knew that a disproportionate number of gay men were affected by the virus.
Ryan James Yezak, lead organizer of the blood drive, is making a documentary about discrimination based on sexual orientation. He said he wants to convey on a national level how much blood the gay community could potentially contribute to the blood supply if given a chance to donate. “This ban is medically unwarranted, and this drive is the only way we can motion for change,” he said. “The gay community shouldn’t be written off as diseased.”
Blood donations were down by 10% across the country in June, according to the American Red Cross, which received about 50,000 fewer donations than expected.
Yezak produced this video that explains today’s action:
“A peaceful nation-wide demonstration in which otherwise eligible gay/bisexual male donors will show up to get tested at a specified donation center in their city and attempt to donate their blood,” the Gay Blood Drive website notes. ”As each donor is rejected, their test result will be collected, compiled, and delivered to the FDA – visually conveying to them on a national level how much blood the gay community could contribute to the blood supply should they lift their current policy.”
Ryan James Yezak came to national attention when he first released promo videos for “Second Class Citizen, including his heart-breaking video, “The Gay Rights Movement,” in January of last year, which he followed up with “What Homosexuality Is Not” a month later. Visit Gay Blood Drive to find a location in your town where you can participate. And bring a friend. Gay Blood Drive also has a Facebook event page, and you can visit Second Class Citizen on Facebook as well.
Image via Facebook
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