ITHACA, NY – Kyle James, a recent graduate of Ithaca College, has launched a protest campaign called “My Blood is Good” featuring photos of would-be blood blood donors who were turned away covered in fake blood.
The campaign is aimed at the Food and Drug Administration’s restrictions on blood donations that exclude men who have had sex with other men within the last year, as well as any female partners of bisexual men who have had sex with another man in the last year and any person who has gotten a tattoo or piercing in the last year.
While James launched the campaign in May after being turned away from a mobile blood bank at IC, the issue has gained additional attention following the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando that targeted an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 and wounding 53 more.
Vincent Dodero, another recent IC grad who was turned away from donating, told USA Today College: “It was pretty upsetting, It was embarrassing and I felt very ‘othered’. When people are discriminated against on an institutional level, it shapes how people perceive them as a whole … I don’t think the FDA has really taken into account how this shapes the public perception [of the LGBT community].”
According to a Wired article, from 1983 until last year, the FDA had placed a blanket ban on blood donation from any man who had ever had sex with another man. Only last year did they relax that restriction to allow gay men who hadn’t been sexually active in the last year to donate.
A change.org petition launched alongside the campaign is pushing the FDA to move toward individual risk-assessment to determine the safety of person’s blood, instead of a blanket restriction that James and others argue is discriminatory.
The petition states: “We believe that if the policies were changed to focus on high-risk activities instead of targeting specific identities, they would be both more effective and allow for more useable blood to be donated. ”
The FDA maintains that the reasoning behind the restriction is that some sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, can take weeks before they show up in tests. In a 2015 press release, Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA said that they had considered options individual risk assessment but determined that the 12-month period was the best option supported by research.
Critics of the policy have pointed out that the policy rules out monogamous gay or bisexual men, but not men or women who have had multiple sexual partners in the same one-year timeframe, even though the latter group is ostensibly at a higher risk for carrying an infection.
(Featured photo courtesy of Kyle James’ Instagram)