HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in Cleveland plan to donate blood late Friday afternoon and intentionally discard it in an action to demonstrate the urgent need to lift the Food and Drug Administration's ban on their blood donations.
"We wanted to highlight the human impact of the ban in very, very visceral terms," said Earl Pike, CEO of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, in an interview with The Advocate. "We literally are pouring blood down the drain that could save lives. We have ten people donating blood and a phlebotomist destroying the blood."
Pike said that 10 men will donate two pints of blood, which translates to the potential to save six lives. Others will sign up to donate blood once the ban is lifted, in a sign of the need to educate an entire generation of gay and bisexual men about how to give blood.
"We want to get ready for when the community can save lives," said Pike. "To start taking down names of people who are interested in giving blood."
The action arrives ahead of FDA hearings on lifting the ban scheduled for June 10 and 11 in Maryland. However, no immediate end to the ban is in sight, which frustrates Pike, given the professional consensus among advocates and health professionals in favor of changing the 27-year-old policy.
"As everybody knows, the FDA is going to look at this issue again this week," he said. "We'll probably have another couple of days of expert testimony in which we revisit the same scientific information we've known for years and years and years."
Pike said that people interested in speeding up the process should check whether their U.S. senators were among the 18 that signed a recent letter to the FDA urging the agency to end the ban. If not, contact the senators and ask them to sign the letter.