Gay blood drive hits Atlanta and exceeds expectations

The National Gay Blood Drive hit TEN Atlanta Friday along with 60 other cities across the U.S. to raise awareness about the ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, while also collecting donations by eligible donors. Letters were sent to the FDA requesting an end to the ban, a White House petition to end the ban was signed and donations far exceeded expectations for the second annual event.

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers collected 42 units of blood and had to turn people away because they ran out of supplies. A typical blood drive produces 18 to 20 donations. The National Gay Blood Drive asked gay and bi men to show up to donate blood and bring a straight friend, ally or lesbian to donate in their place.

A donor gives blood at the National Gay Blood Drive at TEN Atlanta July 11. (photo by Patrick Saunders)
A donor gives blood at the National Gay Blood Drive at TEN Atlanta July 11. (photo by Patrick Saunders)

“It’s great because we’re doing something good but at the same time getting our point across,” drive leader Ben Nicoara told the GA Voice Friday afternoon.

Summer is a critical time for giving blood due to the higher rates of people traveling, said John Andrews, district community development coordinator for LifeSouth.

“The blood only lasts 42 days but people can only donate every 56 days,” Andrews said. “So we’re already behind two weeks. So it’s very critical for us to have a steady blood supply to make it available for the hospitals.”

LifeSouth has no official stance on the ban, with Andrews saying they are required to follow FDA guidelines and if the ban is removed, they will follow the FDA accordingly.

While people came through with the blood donations in Atlanta, there is still a ways to go with the White House petition, with about 83,000 more signatures needed before July 30 in order to hit 100,000 and trigger a response from President Obama’s administration.

Nocoara says some of the letters written by the gay and bi men to the FDA Friday were “creative.” When pressed for more details, he said, “Some people are a little heated about it. I don’t know if I can mention the ones that I can think of because there’s some colorful language, let me just say that. But that’s okay, I appreciate it.” | @patricksaunders