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Saving lives - MAking Change  

Jordan's Op-ed


                            WORTHLESS…… Is how I felt, I Jordan Moll-Vigrass went to                                    donate Blood in October of 2014 shortly after I found out that I                                   have Fatty Liver-Disease a disease that often requires a  liver                                   transplant later in life I wanted to pay it forward incase I was to                                   need a transplant and the blood transfusions that come with it and was turned away, unaware of the FDA’s Guidance at the time that deferred gay & bi-sexual men or men who have sex with men indefinitely from donating blood. I felt as if I was a 2nd class citizen as if my blood was not worth anything, outraged by this policy I did quite a bit of research and I started the “Blood is Blood” movement, and on December 14th, 2015 we held a community rally in Buffalo, NY with Congressman Brian Higgins attending to push for a change to the policy that is discriminatory towards gay & bi-sexual men leaving countless healthy donors unable to do so,  shortly after the Community Rally in 2015 in January of 2016 the FDA released an updated guidance on this policy replacing the life long ban with a 12-month deferral period which took the blanket off the discrimination and applied a band aid on it one which is still discriminatory towards the gay & bi-sexual comunity, while the policy was a step in the right direction it was not enough.

In June of 2016, My heart like many was struck by hate and violence when the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened, I like many wanted to help my community and donate blood, people flooded blood banks all over the country to donate life saving blood and help those injured, while many gay & bi-sexual men were unaware of this policy they showed up to blood banks to donate and were turned away, in this instance I knew that something had to change, we can’t keep having this conversation after another mass shooting about how this policy leaves countless healthy donors unable to do so...we just can't.

In response I contacted the American Red Cross in Buffalo, NY and organized the First Gay Alliance Blood  drive that took place on July 27th, 2016 with the mission to raise awareness and spark conversation about this absurd policy, I encouraged men whom were deferred due to being gay or bi-sexual to bring a friend in their place this way we can still save lives because that is what this is all about, while saving lives we were making change.

The results from the Blood drive we amazing, we had 53 donors and helped save over 159 lives. I decided to make it an annual event in an effort to keep the community engaged and raise awareness, at the 2nd annual Gay Alliance Blood drive on July 26th, 2017.

I vowed a year of celibacy, I did so in hopes that it would spark conversation knowing that the year abstaining from sex would be very difficult, I would finally be able to donate blood and so I vowed to myself that I would do it, this July that year of celibacy came to end with me donating blood at the 3rd Annual Gay Alliance Blood Drive in 2018 a mile stone for me, an accomplishment at least It felt like, I mean after all I donated blood right?

It was not that simple, I soon realised that nothing had changed. I was still that gay man whose blood was not good enough unless I stopped living my life, my year abstaining from sex was very difficult, there was many nights I felt depressed and closed off from the world afraid that I would put myself in a situation that would ruin my year celibacy. I cut off contact with men whom I had feelings for, putting my life on hold, while I do not regret my year of celibacy, with the FDA’s guidance that requires gay & bi-sexual men to abstain from sex for 12 months they are causing a mental effect on the gay & bi-sexual community.

While, the FDA vowed they would continually review this policy since 2016, nothing has changed, the policy should be based on one individual donor risks based on current science.

The deferral period should be no longer than 30 days, given that with current testing technology an HIV infection can be detected in donated blood within several weeks of exposure and even then, those that would be subject to the deferral period should be screened by their individual sexual history not discriminated towards as whole whole group similar to the policy Italy adopted in 2001 which donors are assessed individually with questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with practitioners. Now The Williams Institute calculates that at least an additional 600,000 donors would be donating blood saving over 1,800,000 lives annually If there was no deferral period.

I can tell you just from the Gay Alliance Blood Drives we would have had an additional 134 donors saving over 402 lives locally!

I encourage you to do your part by contacting your local state and federal officials and express your concern for this policy. Share this to your social media.

- Jordan Moll-Vigrass