Tomorrow—Friday, July 12—at 9 a.m. PST, the first nationwide protest of the FDA’s long-standing policy of refusing to accept blood donated by men who have sex with men is scheduled to begin. The protest has been organized by a Los Angeles area filmmaker by the name of Ryan James Yezak, who sees the blood ban as a tangible expression of the pervasive atmosphere of stigma that clings to the gay community as part of the legacy of the AIDS crisis in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The idea is that gay and bisexual men will first get tested for HIV at mobile on-site testing facilities then will head over to the nearest donation center and announce that they are a man who has sex with men before attempting to donate their blood. As each donor is rejected, their test results will be collected and sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in an attempt to demonstrate how much blood the current policy is depriving from a system desperately in need of donors. All the while, Yezak and his crew will be filming the day’s events with the ultimate aim of including the footage in his planned documentary, Second Class Citizen.
The end to the 28-year-old ban would certainly be a net good for society. It was initiated at a time when HIV was a death sentence, the testing of blood for HIV was expensive and unreliable and people—many of them children—contracting HIV from blood transfusions was a terrifying reality. Times have changed, and the policies have not evolved to match the technical realities. All donated blood is now thoroughly and rigorously tested for HIV and a host of other pathogens, and everyone from the American Medical Association to the Red Cross agree the ban should go.
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