One experimental treatment to fight COVID-19 is using antibodies from the plasma of people who have already had the illness.
But some recovered COVID-19 patients have been turned away from donating their antibodies because of bans on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The Blood Equality campaign, a four-year-old initiative from Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and FCB Health New York, is expanding it advocacy efforts to include COVID-19 antibodies.
The campaign debuted new creative that told the stories of two men who were turned away when trying to donate their COVID-19 antibodies. The illustrations depict the two men made up of blood vessels and emphasize that the system of blood donation is biased. The illustrations were created by Malaysian artist Vince Low.
The campaign first launched in 2017. GMHC and FCB Health were working to reverse the ban on blood donation from gay, bisexual and transgender men. The ban stems from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, but advocates say it is discriminatory and no longer scientifically warranted.
That effort focused on the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, when many in the LGBTQ community wanted to donate blood to support their community, but were turned away because of the ban.
The latest effort came during National Blood Donation Week in September. The effort argues that plasma from gay and bisexual men who have recovered from COVID-19 could help save lives, but the ban is preventing them from helping.
It’s also telling the stories of these two men and how upset they were when they were turned away. One said, “I left the building feeling confused, defeated, unworthy. I am just a human being who wants to help other human beings.”