National gay blood drive aims to combat ban on donations by gay men

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A documentary filmmaker has organized the first national gay blood drive to combat the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from gay men.

Ryan James Yezak, who is working on the documentary about the ban called Second Class Citizens, along with other activists, has scheduled the blood drive from noon to 8 p.m. July 12 in 52 cities nationwide. Fort Lauderdale is the only city listed in Florida, according to GayBloodDrive.com.

HIV testing will be done on site and the results sent to the FDA. When the ban was put into place 28 years ago, high tech HIV testing was not available. Yekak’s goal is to visually convey how impactful it would be to lift the ban.

“This is not a protest. This is not to be political,” Yezak says in a video asking for donors. “This is a demonstration of peace, of love, of being a human being.”

The American Medical Association voted in June to oppose the FDA’s 1977 ban, which started when scientists weren’t sure how the deadly AIDs virus was spread. They only knew that a disproportionate number of gay men were affected.

Blood banks are currently instructed to ask male donors if they have ever had sex with a man. If the potential donor answers in the affirmative, he is removed for the donor pool for life.

The AMA recommends a new policy that would base bans or deferrals on an individuals health risk instead of sexual orientation alone. Yezak will use the results from the drive in his new feature documentary.

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