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GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie Donates Blood to Protest FDA Ban on Gay and Bisexual Male Blood Donors

GMHC Urges Public to Submit Comment to the FDA Opposing New Policy Requiring Gay and Bisexual Male Blood Donors to Be Celibate for One Year
6.10.2015
GMHC
 
For Immediate Release
June 5, 2015 

CONTACTS: 
Anthony Hayes I GMHC I 917-601-0410 I AnthonyH@GMHC.org

(New York, NY) - Today artist Jordan Eagles and filmmaker Leo Herrera released a sculpture and short film in protest of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) ban on gay and bisexual male blood donors. The sculpture, titled Blood Mirror, was created using the blood donated by nine gay men (details below), including the CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) Kelsey Louie, GMHC co-founder Dr. Larry Mass, and Oliver Anene, who works at GMHC's HIV testing center. The men are also featured in a short film by Herrera that documents the behind-the-scenes process of donating their blood and making the sculpture. The film was released on MSNBC.com and is also available on YouTube.

In conjunction with the launch of Blood Mirror, GMHC is urging the public to contact the FDA through July 14, 2015 to oppose its proposed policy requiring gay and bisexual men to be celibate for one year in order to be eligible to donate blood. Public comment can be submitted here.

Kelsey Louie

Dr. Larry Mass

Oliver Anene

Blood Mirror (pictured below) will make its public debut at the American University Museum at The Katzen Arts Center in Washington, D.C. from September 12 to October 18, 2015. The exhibition will include related works created in collaboration with Leo Herrera, The Carry Nation, and Jonny Cota of SKINGRAFT. The project collaborators plan for the sculpture and related works to travel to museums throughout the country in the coming year.

"The FDA's ban on gay and bisexual male blood donors perpetuates the stigma fueling the HIV epidemic," said Kelsey Louie, CEO, GMHC. "This is why GMHC has been leading the fight to replace the ban with a policy that screens all donors equally based on high-risk behavior that can lead to HIV infection. Donating my blood to the Blood Mirror project was an incredible honor. But it wasn't until I stood inside it for the first time and saw my reflection in the blood of the other donors, including GMHC's co-founder Dr. Larry Mass, that I realized the power of the sculpture. Over the years, countless lives could have been saved with blood donated by gay and bisexual men."

Blood Mirror by artist Jordan Eagles

The following is a press release from artist Jordan Eagles and filmmaker Leo Herrera with more detailed information about the project and other participants.


NINE GAY MEN GIVE BLOOD TO PROTEST FDA'S BAN ON BLOOD DONATIONS FROM GAY & BISEXUAL MEN

Donated blood used to create sculpture, BLOOD MIRROR, by artist Jordan Eagles
Leo Herrera, activist/filmmaker, documented process in original short film

New York, New York:In 1983, in an early response to the AIDS crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual male blood donors. Over 30 years later, on May 13, 2015, the FDA proposed an updated policy that would finally allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they are celibate for a full year. There is no celibacy requirement for heterosexuals, regardless of their risk for contracting HIV. The proposed new FDA policy is currently open for public comment for 60 days, ending on July 14, 2015. A UCLA Williams Institute study found that lifting the ban completely could save up to a million lives annually.

In 2015, artist Jordan Eagles enlisted a group of nine extraordinary gay men, each with a unique life story, to donate their blood in protest of the FDA's ban and for the creation of a sculpture, Blood Mirror. Leo Herrera, activist and filmmaker, documented the process in an original, political art film, which is being released in advance of World Blood Donor Day (June 14), in honor of LGBT Pride month, and within the public comment period for the FDA's proposed, updated policy.

VIEW VIDEO on YouTube: http://youtu.be/E6ofRB3oDh4
DOWNLOAD Vimeo Link: https://vimeo.com/129840007

The men who donated their blood to this project include: An 88-year-old openly gay priest; A Nigerian gay rights activist on political asylum in the U.S.; A Co-Founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC); The CEO of GMHC; An identical gay twin whose straight brother is eligible to donate; A captain in the Army who served two terms in Iraq and was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (reinstated to service in 2014); A married transgender male couple, and; A bisexual father of two. Dr. Howard Grossman, former director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, was the medical supervisor on the project, as well as a blood donor. Each man is currently ineligible to donate blood under the FDA's current policy-but since they cannot donate their blood to save lives, they've chosen to donate their blood for art.

The sculpture, Blood Mirror, is a seven-foot-tall monolith in which the viewer can see him or herself reflected in the blood of the nine donors, which has been encased and fully preserved. The sculpture will inspire dialogue about the FDA's discriminatory policy and its equally flawed, proposed revision. A totem of science and equality, the sculpture is a time capsule of the donors' blood that embodies the 32-year history of the FDA's discriminatory ban.

"I wanted to create a sculpture that would becomes a time capsule, documenting this moment in time, while showing that this blood could have been used to save lives," said artist Jordan Eagles. "This discriminatory policy is part of our gay history and part of our nation's history, and the sculpture asks us to reflect on discrimination in our country, as well as the homophobia that exists around the world. For me, the sculpture is a work in progress. It will never be finished until the FDA's blood donation policy is fair for all people."

Activist and filmmaker Leo Herrera documented the blood donation process and interviews with the nine donors. His political documentary shows the behind-the-scenes artistic process of Eagles creating the sculpture, and it serves as a "public comment" for each of the nine brave donors. Filming, research, and the making of the works took the creative duo from a doctor's office in Columbus Circle, to an art studio in Bushwick, to the labs of Rockefeller University, to an FDA hearing on the gay blood ban in Washington, D.C. Two years in the making, this collaborative project spans several mediums and included the volunteer work of over thirty men, as well as the nine blood donors. The Carry Nation (Will Automagic and Nita Aviance), one of New York City's most prolific DJ teams,produced the video's original musical score.

"Blood Mirror is about how gay and bisexual men overcome stigma through gathering and art," said activist and filmmaker Leo Herrera. "It represents homophobia so deep that it infected science itself and spawned a fear of our most precious fluids. For gay and bisexual men to be healthy of mind and body, it is crucial we see each other reflected in our brothers so we can overcome the anxieties specific to our people. The Blood Mirror is a relic and a symbol for the love of culture and community."

Blood Donors (in alphabetical order) quoted from Herrera's documentary:

"Back in Nigeria, the only times I would see blood was when my friends were sick in the hospital or they were beaten up because they were gay. If I cannot donate blood to save lives, at least I can donate blood for art."
Oliver Anene, LGBT activist from Nigeria on political asylum in New York City

"Did I have safe sex, was it oral sex? Was it penetrative sex? Are we all disqualified? Can we not give blood to save our friends lives? Can we not give blood to save our children's lives?"
Blue Bayer, Biological father of two

"No such thing as black blood or Latino blood or Asian blood or anything else, its all blood. But I do like what somebody said, that gay blood is love."
Howard Grossman, M.D., former director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and medical advisor for Blood Mirror

"This is both a science issue as well as an equality issue. We have the technology to identify HIV within a blood supply within 9 days. One of the drivers of HIV is stigma. It's dangerous to public health."
Kelsey Louie, CEO, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)-the world's first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy

"When then blood ban happened, from day one it struck me as deeply troubled. Anything that singles out gay men is just all wrong. It's troubled and wrong, and it always was."
Lawrence D. Mass, M.D., Co-Founder of GMHC, wrote the first press reports on AIDS in early 80s

"It is a spiritual thing. Sharing and giving blood is really more than symbolic. It's the real aspect of bringing all people together. All human beings are one in their blood."
Reverend John Moody, 88-year old, openly gay priest, Trinity Wall Street

"We both identify as transgender males and therefore would be illegible to donate blood. But probably we're not necessarily what the FDA had in mind to filter out potential blood donors."
Loren Rice, transgender man, married to Ethan Rice, also a transgender man, for 6 years

"He is straight, I am gay. If my identical twin needed blood, being his perfect match, I would be turned down."
Ty Spicha

"The idea that I can shed my blood on the battlefield and yet at the same time cannot donate blood really doesn't make sense to me."
CPT Anthony Woods, married, served two terms in Iraq, discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (reinstated to service in 2014), Obama White House Fellow, 2012 Congressional candidate

Public Comment:
Until July 14, 2015, you can leave a public comment on the FDA's proposed policy requiring gay and bisexual men to be celibate for one year in order to be eligible to donate blood by visiting this page: http://www.regulations.gov/index.jsp#!submitComment;D=FDA-2015-D-1211-0001

Exhibition:
BLOOD MIRROR will be on view at American University Museum at The Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C. from September 12th to October 18, 2015, with works created in collaboration with Leo Herrera, The Carry Nation, and Jonny Cota of SKINGRAFT.

About Jordan Eagles
Jordan Eagles is a native New Yorker who has garnered cross-disciplinary public and critical attention for his dynamic and meticulous processes of working with blood. Through his experimental, invented process, he encases the blood in plexiglass and UV resin. This preservation technique permanently retains the organic material's natural colors, patterns, and textures. Eagles' works are included in numerous museum collections including The Princeton University Art Museum, the Addison Gallery of American Art, The Everson Museum of Art, The Peabody Essex Museum, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, The Rose Art Museum, as well as others. Eagles' works have been featured in The New York Times, Time, Village Voice, New York Magazine, L'Uomo Vogue, Architectural Digest, VS Magazine, Artforum, Sculpture Magazine, The Huffington Post and on PBS. Images of Eagles' work were most recently scene at NYFW at Lincoln Center as a centerpiece for a print collaboration for the luxury brand SKINGRAFT's Spring/Summer 2015 collection.

About Leo Herrera
Leo Herrera is a Mexican, NYC-based activist/filmmaker with a focus on gay anthropology and fighting HIV stigma. His viral clips, art films and music videos have gathered over half a million views online and featured in The Advocate, The Huffington Post, Out Magazine. His work has aired on PBS and LogoTV. This is Leo Herrera's follow up to his viral hits The Fortune Teller and 3 Eras of Gay Sex in 3 Minutes.

#BloodMirror #BloodEquality #OneInoOurBlood #GayBloodIsLove

 

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis

Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the nation's leading provider of HIV/AIDS care, prevention services and advocacy, serving nearly 9,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, the epidemic's largest U.S. epicenter. As the world's first HIV and AIDS service organization GMHC is an expert in providing services that every person affected by the epidemic deserves. GMHC is on the front lines caring for people who are both HIV negative and positive, including: testing, nutrition, legal, mental health and education services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal level with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic in New York State by 2020. Most recently, GMHC and other HIV/AIDS organizations successfully persuaded the federal government to recommend widespread use of PrEP, a new daily treatment that is over 90% effective in preventing HIV infection. For more information, visit gmhc.org.

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