Metro Weekly

T-Shirt Made with Gay Men’s Blood Protests Donation Restrictions

Artist Zain Curtis created the shirt to criticize the United States' continuing restrictions on gay and bi men donating blood.

T-shirt made with ink infused with gay men’s blood – Photo: Zain Curtis, via Instagram.

An American artist has created a shirt made with the blood of gay men that serves as a protest against the United States’ restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

The T-shirts, which have already sold out, feature the slogan: “How to meet horny married dads in your area in a God-honoring way,” creating an arch over a picture of a man doing a handstand in a latex mask, reports PinkNews

Zain Curtis, a California-based artist, made the shirt using special red ink infused with blood from gay men as a “statement piece” on the policy, which prohibits sexually active men who have sex with men from donating blood, plasma, or other biological products even though sexually active heterosexuals, regardless of their number of sexual partners, may donate at any time. 

Critics of the restrictions, which are imposed on gay and bisexual men due to fears of transmitting HIV, say they are outdated because advances in modern-day testing has reduced the “window period” during which HIV or other blood-borne pathogens may be in blood but may not yet be detected, and are discriminatory for singling out particular groups — namely, gay and bisexual men — for behaviors that are condoned for other groups.

“In 1983, the FDA introduced a guideline that effectively banned men who have sex with men from donating blood,” Curtis wrote in an Instagram post announcing the T-shirts had gone on sale. “A form of this ban remains in place to this day, making the U.S. one of the only countries to continue to ban the donation of gay men’s blood.”

The screenprinting ink used to dye the T-shirts was made by New York-based Mother Goods and artist Stuart Semple, who collaborated to create a collection of inks and paints made from the blood of gay employees of the company. 

All profits from the T-shirts will benefit the New York-based Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which specializes in providing health care to the LGBTQ community.

Following the imposition of the categorical blood ban in 1983, under which any man who had engaged in sex with another man since the 1970s — even once, and even if they had since tested negative for HIV — was barred from donating. In 2015, under the Obama administration, the Food and Drug Administration lifted the lifetime ban and replaced it with a year-long deferral period, meaning gay and bisexual men could only donate if they’d been abstinent for more than a year. 

That deferral period was later shortened to three months in 2020 after declining supplies of blood — and particularly plasma from people who had recovered from COVID-19 — became precious commodities at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FDA has since announced it plans to scuttle the categorical ban on men who have sex with men in favor of individualized risk assessments. However, only men who have sex with men who are in monogamous relationships will be green-lighted to donate without abstaining from sex. All other gay and bisexual men will still be required to abstain for a period of time prior to donating blood or blood products.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, has hailed the newest FDA actions as a step in the right direction, but continues to insist that all categorical restrictions against gay and bisexual men be lifted.

“As LGBTQ leaders and medical experts have been saying for years: bans and restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men are rooted in stigma, not science. Giving one set of rules to some people, and another set of rules to others, based purely on identity, is blatant discrimination,” Ellis said in a statement. “All potential blood donors, whose donations could save lives, should be treated equally.”

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