Cannes, France – Today, nearly two-thirds of the world’s developed countries have some kind of ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. In the U.S., a lifetime ban on donations was in place for more than 30 years. That means even if a partner, a loved one or a friend are in need, gay and bisexual men can’t donate.

In 2015, the FDA issued new guidance that said that gay and bisexual men could donate IF they sat out a one-year waiting period and agreed to be celibate for that entire time. That conversation starts with question #34 on the standard screener: “Male donors: From 1977 to the present, have you ever had sexual contact with another male, even once?"

These bans started in the 1980s when there was a lot of fear and misunderstanding about how HIV was transmitted and how it could be tested for. Now, testing is 99% accurate and can detect HIV within 10 days of exposure.

"The policy has become arbitrary and outdated," Joy Barclay, Global Commercial Lead, New Pipeline Portfolio, Viiv, explained. And it adds to the stigma.

The science has caught up but the policy has not, Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, added. “We know HIV is transmitted by what you do, not who you are,” he said.

This may seem like a small discrimination, said Mike Devlin, EVP creative director at FCB Health, but discrimination breeds discrimination. And this issue can add to the hurt. Louie reminded us of the violence in Orlando. The one thing that everyone should be able to do in a disaster like that is give blood, he said. Gay and bisexual men were turned away. One young man said, “I was turned away for being gay. I feel scared, helpless and angry.

Tackling The Stigma

ViiV, GMHC and FCB Health joined up to tackle the stigma. They worked with artist Jordan Eagles to create signature art that integrated the blood of 9 gay and bisexual men into a piece called Blood Mirror. He joined FCB as an artist in residence that guided much of the rest of their work.

Today, there’s a fully integrated advocacy campaign that includes bold new partnerships, blood drives, outreach to legislators, integration with PRIDE events and the tools for individual action. 

You can watch the PSA, build your own advocate selfie or connect with your legislator here:

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.