Blood-Filled Sculpture Protests FDA Ban on Gay Blood Donations

Kathleen Brown | June 25, 2015 | 3:34pm EDT
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"Blood Mirror" will be featured in a fall exhibition at the  American University Museum. (Facebook)

( -- The American University Museum in Washington, D.C. will host an art exhibition this fall that protests the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) current ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men (MSM).

The museum says the exhibit, entitled “Blood Mirror", will feature a “powerful sculpture created from the blood of 9 gay men." 

Viewers of the sculpture will be able to see themselves reflected on the surface of the encased blood.

Gay artist Jordan Eagles said in a press release that he preserved the blood within a seven-foot-tall monolith to show “that this blood could have been used to save lives.”

The American University Museum told that Eagles was not paid for the sculpture, and that government monies are not funding the upcoming exhibit.

Volunteer blood donors for the sculpture include an 88-year-old gay priest, a transgender male couple, an Army captain discharged from service under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” an identical gay twin, a bisexual father, and three gay rights activists.  

“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 press release states.

"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,” Eagles continued.

The exhibit will also include a short film by Leo Herrera, who said the sculpture “represents homophobia so deep that it infected science itself and spawned a fear of our most precious fluids.”

The FDA’s policy banning blood donations from sexually active gay men was established at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1983 “and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor's sexual orientation,” the FDA states.

Rather, men who have had sex with men are prevented from donating blood because of their increased risk of HIV, Hepatitis B, and other infections which can be transmitted through blood transfusion, the agency explains.

“Current scientific data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that, as a group, men who have sex with other men are at a higher risk for transmitting infectious diseases or HIV than are individuals in other risk categories.”

On May 13, the FDA proposed a new policy that would allow men who have abstained from sex with other men for 12 months to donate blood.

“In 2010, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 63% of newly diagnosed HIV infections among adults, and 78% of newly diagnosed HIV infections in men, indicating that male-to-male sexual contact remains associated with high risk of HIV exposure,” the FDA  noted.

The agency added that “sufficient data are not available to assess the effectiveness of selecting MSM with low HIV risk based on deferral times of less than one year since last exposure…

“Additionally, the available epidemiologic data in the published literature do not support the concept that MSM who report mutual monogamy with a partner or who report routine use of safe sex practices are at low risk for HIV.”

However, since no such celibacy restrictions exist for heterosexual donors, Eagles and Herrera called it an “equally flawed proposed revision.”

According to the press release, issued during the public comment period for the new FDA proposal, “the sculpture will inspire dialogue about the FDA’s discriminatory policy.”

“The FDA is taking a bold step. There’s been a discriminatory policy in place and a change is, in fact, happening. It’s historic, but it doesn’t do enough, and it’s not actually fair. How many gay men do I know that are actually going to be celibate for 12 months? Gay men that I know that are married, that are monogamous with each other?” said Eagles in Herrera’s film.

“What actually seemed like something that was a step in the right direction -- [I] sat with it for a while and actually felt like this was even worse. Here we are in 2015 and we have all this medicine and science at our disposal, and this is the best that they could do?”

Eagles said his work “will never be finished until the FDA’s blood donation policy is fair for all people.” 

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