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Seattle Joins 60 Other Cities, Holds Gay Blood Drive To Protest FDA Ban

When Michael Wells was growing up in Normal, Illinois, his dad would frequently come home from work wearing a pin that had a little blood drop.

“I was always fascinated by it, because my dad never wore any kind of jewelry or anything,” Wells said.

When Wells asked about the pin, his father told him it signaled he'd given blood.

“He always talked about it, and I always grew up thinking it was just a basic civic responsibility. ‘This is what you do when you’re an adult. You give blood,’” said Wells, who is the executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Wells donated blood in high school, but after the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, he stopped voluntarily. But now Wells wants to help out again. So on Friday, Wells participated in the National Gay Blood Drive, a campaign to raise awareness about a 1983 FDA ban that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood. As a part of the National Gay Blood Drive, friends and relatives of gay and bisexual men gave blood on their behalf in more than 60 cities around the nation.  

Seattle Participants Donate Blood, Sign Petition

Seattle’s event was held outside of Seattle Central College where dozens of people donated blood in Puget Sound Blood Center's mobile unit. Jeremiah Holt, one of the event organizers, said the unit can handle up to 45 blood donations.

“Seattle has a great history of being an activist for gay and lesbian as well as transgender issues, and that makes me think we’ll get a lot of support today,” Holt said.

In addition to donating blood, people were encouraged to write letters to the FDA and fill out donor name tags. All of the letters and name tags at the blood drives throughout the nation will then be counted and delivered and to the FDA. Using a tablet, people were also able to sign a White House petition requesting the FDA to change the ban.

“I would love, ultimately, if we get this petition sent to the White House,” Holt said. “I know it won’t come from Seattle alone, but we have 60 other cities across the country also doing this same event today.”

'Tremendous Advances In Tests Used To Screen Blood Supply'

Public Health - Seattle & King County recently issued a statement urging the FDA to review its current policy.

“There have been tremendous advances in the tests used to screen the blood supply since the FDA adopted its current rules,” the agency said in a released statement. 

Wells said there were a lot of unanswered questions in the 1980s regarding HIV/AIDS, but we now live in a different world.

“Things have changed so significantly, and there are easy ways to detect HIV these days, and so I think it’s time to lift the ban,” he said. “It goes a long way to lifting a certain kind of stigma about gay men being unhealthy or sick, so I think that’s important. And I want to be a part of giving blood for my country and for people who need it.”