By Jase Peeples
Originally published on Advocate.com April 23 2013 5:19 PM ET
When Seminole State nursing student Blake Lynch found out his friend Emmy suffered from sickle cell anemia and required blood transfusions, he went to donate blood on her behalf. But when Lynch arrived to make his contribution, he was turned away due to the FDA’s policy which bans any man who has ever had sex with another man from donating blood for life.
Outraged that people like his friend Emmy were being denied potential donations due to a three decades-old policy, he founded the organization Banned4Life with his partner Brett Donnelly which aims to raise awareness of the FDA’s discriminatory ban.
Several respected organizations such as the American Red Cross have urged the FDA to reconsider their blood deferral policies, noting their ban on donations from gay men is unwarranted. Current practices require all donations to be tested for over a dozen diseases including HIV. Yet the FDA has refused to change their stance.
Emmy notes that HIV is not a disease which only affects gay men and worries that the FDA’s outdated policy may cost lives in the future. “I’m afraid that one day I will be told that there is no blood available for my transfusion when needed most,” she says in a statement on the Banned4Life website. “I have been battling this disease all my life and sometimes blood transfusions are vital to my recovery.”
In addition to their efforts to change the FDA’s current discriminatory policy, Banned4Life also encourages eligible donors to give blood in the place of those who have been “banned for life” and is planning several upcoming charity events and blood drives.
The biggest of these will be taking place on October 19, 2013, a date the organization has coined as National Donate 4 All Day, a day described on their website as a time “where businesses, organizations and universities will host community blood drive events around the nation.”
To learn more about the Banned4Life organization’s mission, watch the video below and visit Banned4Life.org.