All blood is not created equal. That’s the message that gay and bisexual men receive when they attempt to donate their blood.
Because today, gay and bi men are required to remain celibate for 1 full year before they’re allowed to donate. Some saw this as an improvement over the total ban that had been in place for 30 years. The ban against gay men donating blood went into effect during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Yet despite advances in science, and the fact that all blood is meticulously and accurately screened, this discriminatory policy remains in place.
But discrimination at any level begets discrimination, and cannot be accepted. The terrible tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando struck as our campaign was just getting started, and served to reinforce pour resolve. As men were turned away, unable to donate to their friends, family, and loved ones, we knew that Blood Equality was needed.
Over the past year, our initiative has sparked massive media attention, action on the floor of the United States Senate and Congress, and awareness across the LGBT community and beyond. Blood Equality and One In Our Blood exhibits were featured at the National Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, the Birmingham Public Library, University of Alabama Birmingham, and more.
Our efforts also caught the attention of the one organization empowered to change things: the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Blood Equality helped influence the FDA’s decision to open up a public docket, and played some small part in the FDA’s change from a lifetime ban to the current policy. Most important, perhaps, is that the FDA personally attended our Blood Equality Medical Advisory Board meetings, where we assembled thought leaders from blood safety, infectious disease, and advocacy groups to discuss and debate a path forward. The FDA is now leading the charge with Blood Equality Med Ad Board members, looking to field primary research and studies to test new questionnaires and, hopefully, find a way to change the policy.