Two dumpsters filled with fake blood bags has been set up near the Chelsea Market to raise awareness on the FDA’s outdated and stigmatizing gay blood ban against gay men.
“Gay men are still discriminated against, they’re not allowed to donate blood,” said Mike Devlin, Creative Director at FCB Health.
Devlin and FCB Health created this art installation in partnership with The Gay Men’s Health Crisis to raise awareness about the thousands of pints of blood he says are lost every year due to the gay blood ban.
For decades, the Food and Drug Administration prohibited men who have sex with other men from donating blood.
Last year health officials eased the ban — now gay men have to remain celibate for a full year before donating
“As the universal donor I’m O negative. I feel like my blood could have a lot of use, it’s a civil injustice to a large population that we’re unable to donate our blood,” said one man.
The donation issue made headlines again after the Orlando nightclub shooting — when dozens of gay friends of victims wanted to donate blood — but discovered they couldn’t.
And while the FDA said in the wake of the shooting that they “empathize” with those who want to donate, they said the scientific evidence was not available to support an alternative to the current deferral policy.
“Every pint of blood that gets donated is actually screened, everyone. Mine yours anyone who donates, so the fact that gay men are still barred from actually participating in something that is very much a human thing —to donate blood to friends and family — it doesn’t make sense,” added Mike Devlin.
Organizers behind this blood project hope this Installation creates an image for the public to see just how much blood is potentially lost.
“It’s a waste of a very important source I think, we could use much better, I don’t think there’s a reason to ban it,” said Yoev, another passerby.
Officials from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis say they’re continuing to push the FDA to accelerate their review of the ban so that everyone’s blood will be treated fairly.
Other countries without the ban have perfectly safe blood supplies. Italy, for example, replaced a similar ban fifteen years ago with an approach based on sexual practices. This “individual risk assessment” approach did not harm blood safety. In 2015 Argentina lifted its ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual men. Health Minister Daniel Gollán declared that the change is “scientifically and technically accurate” and based on a medical approach that replaces that old concept of ‘risk groups.’