In 1983, the FDA placed a lifetime ban on all blood donations from gay and bisexual men in the wake of the AIDS crisis. But 30 years later, the discriminatory ban continues and activists are now calling for “Blood Equality.”
To further the national discussion, artist Jordan Eagles has organized a panel at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The Blood Equality panel will bring experts to address this important issue as a response to the FDA’s public comment period ending this week. The event is free and open to the public. The panel will also be live-streamed online at 7:30 pm PT for anyone outside the Los Angeles area.The concept of Blood Equality is particularly timely after the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, where gay and bisexual men were turned away from donating blood. This prompted the FDA to issue a new public comment period on the ban that will end three days after the Blood Equality panel.
The FDA has revised the ban so that gay and bisexual men could donate blood but only if they’ve been celibate for a year. But activists think this revision is just as discriminatory since no such condition exists for heterosexual blood donors.
Blood Equality panelists include Brad Sears, Associate Dean and Executive Director of UCLA’s Williams Institute, a prestigious think tank that advocates nationally for LGBT issues. Recently, a Williams Institute study found that lifting the FDA ban on gay and bisexual men could save up to a million lives every year. Important side note: the Williams Institute receives funding from the federal government, so keep an eye out for any talk of defunding under Trump’s presidency.Other panelists include Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC); Jeffrey Klausner, MD, professor of medicine and public health in the UCLA Division of Infectious Diseases and Department of Epidemiology; and Jim Halloran, President of TwitterOpen.
In November 2015, Twitter canceled their corporate blood drives because its gay and bisexual male employees were not able to take part. This summer, Twitter also hosted a Pride fundraiser that raised $30,000 for The Trevor Project.Organizer Jordan Eagles had this to say about Twitter’s involvement in Blood Equality:
“Twitter’s cancellation of its drives was a bold decision that highlights the need for companies to have practices that are fair and inclusive of all their employees. If the FDA’s blood donation policy wasn’t discriminatory and was based on science, not stigma, then companies wouldn’t be put in the position of alienating some of their employees by excluding them from blood drives.
I’m thrilled that Jim Halloran, President of TwitterOpen, is able to be part of the Blood Equality panel at the Hammer Museum and will share his experience and involvement in Twitter’s decision. It’s inspiring when people and companies take a stand for what is right — which is precisely what Jim and Twitter did. Until the FDA’s policy is fair and based on sound science, I hope other companies follow Twitter’s lead.”Last year, Eagles addressed the discriminatory ban via his art project, Blood Mirror, a seven-foot-tall sculpture that contained the blood of nine gay or bisexual men.
The Blood Equality panel will be moderated by Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who has written about Blood Mirror and the FDA ban. If you have any questions for the panelists, you can share them on Twitter using #AskBloodEquality.
Photos: Blood Equality