On July 12, thousands of gay and bisexual men and their supporters participated in a peaceful nationwide demonstration against the controversial Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.

Organized by a grassroots campaign documentary Second Class Citizens, led by independent filmmaker Ryan James Yezak, gay men and bisexual men were encouraged to report to blood donation collection sites across the country, and face rejection for their sexual orientation. Women who have had sex in the past year with a man who has had sex with men since 1977, are also banned from donating.

People who are turned away are stamped with "Rejected" across the veins of their forearms.

National Gay Blood Drive is more than just a statement. When men who have had sex with men attempt to donate blood, they first are subjected to an HIV test like all who attempt to donate. After being disqualified based on their sexual history, their tests will be compiled, collected, and delivered to the FDA. The amassed blood tests will be a visual and quantifiable message of just how much donated blood the FDA could receive if the gay community would be allowed to contribute.

The Current Blood Shortage And The Past Gay Scare

Days ago, the American Red Cross issued an emergency request for blood and platelets because donations have been on the decline. According to the American Red Cross, someone needs a blood transfusion every 2 seconds. To meet the demand, an average of 44,000 blood donations are needed every day. Currently, less than 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to give blood due to a number of restrictions.

The ban was implemented in 1983, during the height of the HIV and AIDS scare. Then, contamination of the nation's blood supply led to 17,000 people becoming infected through blood transfusions. Many of the infected had hemophilia, a condition requiring frequent blood transfusions, and subsequently died of AIDS. The issue was brought to national attention through Ryan White, a hemophiliac who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, and was later banned from his middle school because of his infection.

Since the 1980s, scientific advances in testing for HIV and other blood borne diseases have made it possible to screen the blood supply more effectively. In the U.S., HIV testing is performed on all donated blood, regardless of the donor's sexual history, and consequently the risk of HIV has lowered to an estimated 1 out of every 2 million units of donated blood. But the FDA ban remains unchanged.

Recent Efforts To Change The Ban

In 2010, an FDA advisory committee concluded that the current ban on gay men is sub-optimal, and would be changed pending research. Currently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is conducting studies to assess potential changes to regulations.

The American Medical Association, one of the largest and most respected professional associations, voted to oppose the ban in June 2012.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," said Dr. William Kobler, an AMA board member, in a statement.

Changes hoped for by the AMA and supporters of Yezak are a change in regulations that are based on individualized assessment of actual HIV risk, rather than discriminating based on sexual orientation. A possible model framework is that used in Canada and the UK, where men who have had sex with men could donate blood if they abstain from sex for a certain period of time.

Aside from addressing the national blood supply, Yezak, hopes that the campaign's efforts will simultaneously reduce anti-gay stigma, and save men from the traumatic experience he faced while trying to donate blood.

"There's a really alienating feeling," said Yezak, of facing discrimination while trying to donate. "That's the first time I felt direct anti-gay discrimination and once you feel that you can't ignore it."