By Aaron Drake
If you attended the L.A. Pride festival earlier this month, you might have noticed a booth that Christopher Street West/L.A. PRIDE set up for a "Blood Drive." Since gay men have been banned from donating blood for life since 1985, it might have left you a little confused.
But the organization set up the booth to draw attention to the ban, giving approximately 2,085 attendees information about this policy and then asking them to sign a petition in support of lifting the ban. CSW says "each signature represented one pint of blood collected, for a total of 2,085 pints, which could have saved over 6,000 lives."
From Christopher Street West:
The L.A. PRIDE "Blood Drive" bolsters recent momentum to revise the FDA policy. Last year, a similar ban was revised in England, Scotland and Wales which now allows gay men to give blood if they haven't had sex with another man for at least one year. Earlier this month, Senator John Kerry and Rep. Mike Quigley voiced support for a new pilot study reviewing the policy being conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In an op-ed, they wrote, "In the 27 years since (the FDA ban was enacted), we have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, policy changes in other nations, and staunch opposition from the nation's blood banks who have called the current ban medically and scientifically unwarranted. Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages."
Just this week, the American Red Cross called upon all eligible donors "to step up, roll up a sleeve and give blood or platelets as soon as possible" as the nation's blood supply has dropped to emergency levels. This shortfall leaves only about half of the readily available blood on hand today than at this time last year.
"The FDA's ban was put into place during the very early days of the AIDS epidemic when so little was known about the disease," said Dr. Steve Ganzell, Christopher Street West Board of Directors. "Today, fueled by recent attempts to revise the policy at the national level plus grass roots' efforts like those at LA PRIDE, we are calling attention to what many perceive as a discriminatory, hurtful and unnecessary relic of a time gone by that says the blood of gay men is dirty."
According to the American Red Cross, each pint of donated blood can save three lives. Thus, collectively, the blood donated at L.A. PRIDE could have saved more than 6,000 people. Richard Benjamin, Chief Medical Officer of the American Red Cross, recently told The Washington Post, "...HIV was a much bigger threat to the U.S. blood supply decades ago but that scientific advances have allowed much earlier and better detection of the virus that causes AIDS." Benjamin is calling for the ban to be shortened to one year.
Each person that signed up during L.A. PRIDE was directed to a change.org petition on LAPRIDE.org which provided more information.