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This Painting Made From Gay Men's Blood Makes A Powerful Point About Blood Donation Rules

The painting is a protest against UK rules which ban men from donating blood within 12 months of having sex with another man.

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The portrait of Alan Turing, the pioneering computer scientist and British war hero, was made from hundreds of vials of blood, all donated by gay men.

The painting was commissioned by campaign group Freedom to Donate, who unveiled it at an event at a reception at the Houses of Parliament on Monday.

Artist Conor Collins told BuzzFeed News that almost all the blood is from medical professionals who are unable donate blood, because of their sexuality.

"With the exception of one person, all the blood in the painting is from GPs, surgeons, nurses. They're all medical professionals who, because of who they are, can't donate blood," he said.

"One of them was a heart surgeon and you literally trust him to open you up and hold your heart in his hands and yet we apparently, according to the law, don't trust him to donate blood.

"It was surprisingly easy to get the blood. Once I started telling people about the piece and the protest we were making, they were instantly eager to help."

Men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months can't give blood, according to NHS guidelines.

"The first thing is that he anonymously through his actions saved the lives potentially of millions and millions of people," he said.

"And when you donate you anonymously save the life of someone you've never met and who you'll maybe never meet.

"The second thing is that Alan Turing, despite all the actions and great things he did, if he was alive today he wouldn't be allowed to donate blood either."

"The blood makes up the majority of the image but there's a lot of varnish. I'd use six or seven vials of blood then I'd varnish it, leave it a few days then varnish, varnish, varnish. Then another layer of blood, then more varnish," said Collins.

And this might be the last blood-based painting from Collins – despite even using his own blood, he's scared by the sight of it.

"I'm squeamish – I feel so ill at the sight of blood," he said. "It was obviously very important so I had to work through it. But blood knocks me sick, ironically."

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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