LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Southland film director is organizing what’s 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.
Director Ryan James Yezak will film footage of the drive set for Friday at the Kaiser Permanente Blood Donation Center at 4700 Sunset Boulevard for “Second Class Citizens”, an upcoming feature‐length documentary about discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Organizers say the drive will take place nationally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will consist of “eligible gay and bisexual male donors” — which regulators classify as “men who have had sex with other men (MSM)” donors — showing up to get tested at the donation center and then attempting to donate their blood.
As each donor is rejected, their test results will be collected, compiled, and delivered to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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.
Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1977, the FDA has deferred donations from MSM blood donors over increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.
In a statement, Yezak called the ban “outdated” and that it prohibits “otherwise eligible gay and bisexual men…to contribute to the nation’s blood supply and help save lives.”
“The ban perpetuates negative stereotypes and stigma,” Yezak said. “Whether intentional or not, it is discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
The FDA has publicly stated its policy is based solely on “the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex” and not “on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation.”
While an anticipated 1,000 rejected MSM donors will be exceeded, on‐site mobile rapid HIV testing will be provided at each location for participants to confirm their statuses before attempting to donate, according to Yezak.