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Gay blood drive held to urge the FDA to change donation regulations

Gay blood drive held to urge the FDA to change donation regulations

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Posted By: Jenn Hatcher


Since 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood. Men who have had sexual contact with men (MSM donors) are deferred by the FDA for life, and every blood bank in the U.S. is mandated to comply with this policy.

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood; however, millions of healthy Americans are not allowed to donate due to the FDA policy. In response, the National Gay Blood Drive will take place in more than 60 U.S. cities on July 11 to bring attention to the ban and help save lives. 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 participating cities.

Yezak organized the drive for the first time last year when he was unable to speak to the FDA about the ban for his documentary Second Class Citizens.

"The policy is outdated, and as a result, otherwise eligible gay and bisexual men are unable to contribute to the nation’s blood supply and help save lives,” said Yezak.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 last year’s drive, Yezak was most surprised by participation from a nearly equivalent amount of allies, including lesbian and heterosexual individuals. Inspired by their support and involvement, Yezak decided to once again organize the National Gay Blood Drive, expanding it to show broad demographic support.

“This year, the drive’s goal is to get everyone involved – including our ally donors – to speak with a collective voice,” said Yezak. “Eligible allies can donate in place of the gay and bisexual men who cannot so that we not only raise awareness about the ban but also help contribute to the more than 41,000 blood donations needed every day. We want the FDA to see how our community can benefit the nation’s blood supply, but also see how much we can contribute even when we are banned.”

On the day of the drive, gay and bisexual men will come out to blood donation locations across 60 U.S. cities to show their willingness to contribute by bringing eligible allies to donate in their place. The gay and bisexual men will be able to write a message to the FDA, while the eligible allies can fill out a donor nametag with the name of the individual whose place they took. All participants will receive National Gay Blood Drive shirts and will be photographed together. Volunteers will then collect the messages and donor name tags and count them so that they can be sent to the FDA - visually conveying the contribution that the gay community can make to the nation’s blood supply if the ban is changed.

In conjunction with the National Gay Blood Drive, 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 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.

Help us shed a nationwide light on this ban and get blood to those who need it. Watch the National Gay Blood Drive announcement video for more information, and visit to get involved.

About The National Gay Blood Drive

There is a constant need for blood and donors are essential in maintaining an adequate supply. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood. On July 11, a nationwide blood drive will take place to bring attention to the ban and help save lives. Gay and bisexual men will show their willingness to contribute by bringing allies to donate in their place. This grassroots effort to create change cannot happen without you.


An event was held at the Nebraska Community Blood Bank on Friday.   “The primary concern of Nebraska Community Blood Bank, and all blood centers nationwide, is a safe and stable blood supply for our community and our nation” said Jed Gorlin, M.D., Nebraska Community Blood Bank’s Chief Medical Officer and Vice President Medical and Quality Affairs, adding “we rigorously follow all FDA mandates on donor eligibility, and recognize the need to consistently apply scientifically based deferral policies across all prospective blood donors.”

Key Factors Regarding Blood Donor Eligibility

Nebraska Community Blood Bank and all other blood centers are governed by the FDA and are required to follow its mandates. The FDA determines blood donation eligibility which currently includes an indefinite or lifetime deferral for blood donation by MSM—a restriction that has been in place since 1983.

Keeping in strict compliance with FDA mandates to maintain a safe and available blood supply continues to be Nebraska Community Blood Bank’s highest priority.

Nebraska Community Blood Bank and other blood centers nationwide have repeatedly urged the FDA to review and amend its deferral criteria for prospective MSM donors, supporting the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied consistently among donors who engage in similar risk activities. While supporting a change in the MSM deferral period, active MSMs would remain ineligible to donate blood.

Since 2006, AABB, America’s Blood Centers, and American Red Cross have been advocating for changes to FDA deferral criteria. The American Medical Association (AMA) voted in June 2013 to oppose the ban as well and, similarly, has recommended that the FDA craft policy that more accurately represents scientific research.

Current scientific testing is reliable and sensitive, ensuring a low risk of transfusion-transmitted diseases for which donated blood is screened.

Nebraska Community Blood Bank continues to monitor international policy changes (e.g., in Canada and the U.K.) regarding blood donation restrictions and deferrals, specifically MSM.

Additional information about Nebraska Community Blood Bank’s donor eligibility guidelines can be found at

To learn more about the FDA’s blood donation policies, visit the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

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