DURHAM, N.C. — On July 11, the National Gay Blood Drive (NGBD) will be held to bring attention to and to encourage the lifting of the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
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 60 participating cities. This is its second year.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a lifetime deferment for those men who have sexual contact with men.
“The policy is outdated, and as a result, otherwise eligible gay and bisexual men are unable to contribute to the nation’s blood supply and help save lives,” said Yezak.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.”
While hundreds of gay and bisexual men across the country took part in the inaugural drive last year, Yezak was most surprised by participation from a nearly equivalent amount of allies, including lesbian and straight individuals. Inspired by their support and involvement, Yezak decided to once again organize the NDBD, expanding it to show broad demographic support.
Henry Amador decided to throw support for the initiative and is hosting a blood drive from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 4737 University Dr., Building #3. The event is a joint effort on behalf of the LGBTQ Center of Durham (see goqnotes.com/30158/) and his DADsquared organization.
“I reached out to the organization [NGBD] as soon as I heard about the drive,” Amadaor said. “It resonated with me as a gay man. Donating blood was just something that I had come to believe that I was just not allowed to do. When I stopped for a moment to contemplate why, I was immediately saddened and moved to help make a change.”
He said that the project was definitely something he could see the future LGBTQ Center backing in the future. “Hopefully, however, we won’t need to for much longer!”
The group is asking gay and bisexual men to bring eligible friends who can donate blood on their behalf. “Eligible donors are not required to be pre-tested, they simply can’t be gay or bi men,” Amador stated.
Amador shared that Helena Craig, The Durham LGBTQ Center executive director, brought it to his attention since he worked with gay men (dads in particular). “She thought it might be a nice fit,” he said.
For years, opinion by some was that gay men were often not considered as blood donors because of the threat of HIV/AIDS. “That is simply inaccurate, engaging in risky sexual behavior should be what excludes a donor, not being a gay or bi man. This ban implies that only gay or bi men could be in danger of contracting and passing on the virus, we know that is untrue,” he added.
In conjunction with the NGBD, a White House petition was launched on July 1 that calls on the FDA to change its policy. If the petition receives 100,000 signatures by July 30, President Barack Obama’s administration will issue a response. Yezak believes that it is the most effective action possible right now to increase pressure on the FDA to change their policy.
Volunteers will be on hand to welcome participants and assist in signup. A NGBD T-shirt will be given to those who sign in as a thank you gift. Participants’ names will be added to the petition being sent to the White House.
A pre-drive appointment is encouraged to avoid wait time.
Another blood drive will occur in Winston-Salem, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., at the American Red Cross, 650 Coliseum Dr. Those who wish to participate must email email@example.com to be scheduled and receive additional information.
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