Among the many community booths at the LA Pride festival in West Hollywood Park is a Christopher Street West “Blood” Drive booth.
But this booth isn’t taking blood donations. After all, gay men have been banned from donating blood for the past 30 years, ever since the AIDS epidemic hit and it was discovered that HIV could be transmitted via blood transfusions.
And that’s what this “blood drive” is all about.
“We’re trying to overturn that ban,” said Mary Kirmo, the volunteer coordinator for the booth. “Testing is better now and there’s no reason that men who have sex with other men should be banned from giving blood for life.”
The European Union overturned its lifetime ban in Sept. 2011, Kirmo said, instead replacing it with a 12-month deferral period. There gay men who have been celibate for 12 months can now give blood.
The idea is gaining momentum in Australia, she said, and now they want to see the same thing happen in America.
Doing the booth at the Pride festival was LA Pride event coordinator Kerry Bailey's idea. Bailey, who has always wanted to give blood, said the ban on gay blood made him feel ashamed since his blood was considered “dirty.”
But they aren’t circulating petitions to overturn the American ban just yet. They’re working on a solid proposal to present to the Food and Drug Administration, which has strict guidelines for petitions.
“We’re signing people up for an awareness campaign to make them more aware that [the ban against gay men giving blood] is something that is still going on,” Kirmo said. “A lot of the people that we talk to don’t even know that.”
Response has been positive. “People are excited,” she said. “A lot of people see it as an equality issue in part because lesbians can give blood, but gay men can’t.”
For more information, go to the CSW website: http://lapride.org/liftbloodban/
Or visit the Change.org website: http://www.change.org/petitions/repeal-the-fda-msm-blood-ban