The Love is Love Blood Drive educated participants on a limitation placed on gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood, according to Mitchell Beers ’17, the co-president of Waltham Group and a coordinator for the blood drive. It was one of three blood drives that the Waltham Group sets up during each academic year.
Until 2015 the FDA maintained a ban on men who have had sex with men, preventing them from donating blood. The original ban was established in 1985 to prevent the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), according to an article by CNN. “The idea is kind of antiquated … In actuality the blood donations are tested for HIV twice and there are other populations that also have higher rates of HIV, but they are not discriminated against,” Beers said.
In December of 2015 the FDA announced that it was lifting its lifetime blood donation ban on men who have sex with men. It replaced the indefinite ban with a time limit. Men can donate blood as long as they have not had sex with another man for 12 months, according to the FDA’s policy. “We felt like that small stipulation is kind of discriminatory in itself. It’s like, it’s okay if you’re gay but you can’t have a relationship or intercourse,” Beers said.
The Love is Love Blood Drive educated the community about FDA policies and alerted those interested in donating blood that the drive did not condone the ban. “We know that people still need blood donations but we want to recognize and actively fight against injustices and homophobia,” Beers told The Brandeis Hoot. Students donating blood could sign a petition against the ban.
The drive was just one of the events that occurred for Love is Love Week. A self-care night was hosted in conjunction with the Queer Resource Center. A pancake delivery drive raised money for the families and individuals affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando on June 12. A gunman opened fire on the gay nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53, according to The New York Times.
The FDA ban was temporarily suspended in the area surrounding the nightclub shooting due to overwhelming requests to donate blood from the LGBTQ community, according to an article by CNN.
Beers worked with six other coordinators on the blood drive. Beers estimates that they received over 100 donations. “I think it was really a successful blood drive. As much as we love theming things, like a vampire theme … it’s wonderful if you can put your efforts to a greater meaning and equality,” said Beers.