The Philadelphia Gay Blood Drive will take place 7 a.m.-2 p.m. July 11 at the American Red Cross Donation Center, 700 Spring Garden St.
The drive is in protest to the longstanding ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood, instated in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. In order to demonstrate resistance against the policy, gay and bisexual men are encouraged to bring allies to donate blood in their place.
Organizer Kyle Diaz, who moved to Delaware from Massachusetts earlier this year, said he took the move as an opportunity to immerse himself in LGBT culture, including exploring documentaries. That’s where he discovered Ryan James Yezak’s “Second Class Citizen,” which, among other topics, highlights the ban on blood donation by men who have sex with men.
“I went on Kickstarter and I had seen the deadline had passed for [Yezak’s] documentary fundraiser, so I looked into what Ryan had been doing and saw he had done the National Gay Blood Drive,” he said. “I thought it was an interesting concept. The first blood drive they did last year was sort of a shock campaign: They had gay and bisexual men come out and do HIV testing and try to donate blood and present their negative test results and still be rejected. The problem with that is the Red Cross said it would tie up a lot of the time that could otherwise be used to donate.”
Diaz signed up to volunteer for the National Gay Blood Drive in February and is working to organize the local effort along with two other volunteers.
There will be a petition on hand calling on the government to abolish the policy, which will be sent to the White House.
Diaz said some critics have taken issue with the title of the event, but it’s one that seeks to heighten understanding of the problem.
“People have told me that they don’t like the fact that we are calling it a ‘gay’ blood drive — they believe is it segregating it, which is understandable. But, the only way to raise awareness about an issue is to address the issue,” he said.
Apart from the ban, Diaz said the drive also promotes the value of donating blood.
“Donating blood is a great thing,” he said. “ The FDA is wishy washy about the ban. When it is a blanket statement, they say we need blood and if 1 percent donates, we’d have all the blood we need. But, when gay and bisexual men try to donate, all of a sudden they have all the blood they need. I hope this brings light to the issue and garners more support.”
For more information, visit www.gayblooddrive.com.