LOS ANGELES — Gay rights activists are planning protests at blood donation centers across the nation on Friday to combat the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The effort, organized by Los Angeles film director Ryan James Yezak, is being billed as the “first-ever nationwide gay blood drive” to increase pressure on federal regulators to lift a ban against blood donors who have had male-to-male sex.
The FDA has banned blood donations from men who have had sex with other men since 1977, saying there is an increased risk of exposure to and transmission of infectious diseases — including HIV — in male-to-male sexual encounters.
Yezak is urging gay and bisexual men to visit one of more than 50 designated blood donation centers in cities across the nation on Friday, where a mobile HIV testing center will be located.
He’s asking the men to get tested, and if their HIV results are negative, to try and donate blood.
Blood donation centers are instructed to ask male donors if they have ever had sex with a man. If the potential donor responds “yes,” he is instantly removed from the donor pool for life.
As each donor is rejected, their test results will be collected, compiled, and delivered to the FDA on a national level in an effort to demonstrate how much blood the gay community could contribute to the blood supply if the current policy was lifted.
“This ban is medically unwarranted, and this drive is the only way we can motion for change,” Yezak said. “The gay community shouldn’t be written off as diseased.”
The Red Cross said Tuesday that blood donations were down by about 10 percent across the country in June, with about 50,000 fewer donations than expected.
Yezak will film footage of the drive at a blood donation center in Los Angeles to be included in his upcoming feature film “Second Class Citizens,” a documentary about discrimination based on sexual orientation.
To participate in the blood drive, click here for locations and additional information.