With at least 50 people killed and 53 people hospitalized after the Orlando nightclub shooting, local hospitals have needed people to donate blood to help the injured. Unfortunately, the call for donations has brought up confusion about whether gay men themselves can donate blood, underscoring another aspect in the discrimination that they have faced.
Early on Sunday morning, after the shooting, blood donation foundation OneBlood put out a call for people to donate blood on their social media accounts, as shown in the Facebook post above and the Twitter post below.
Somehow this translated into a rumor that OneBlood would accept donations from gay men. Mashable found one such Twitter post circulating this false information. In 1983, the FDA banned blood donation from gay men, due to fears about HIV transmission. In 2012, they amended their rules from a lifetime ban to a ban on donation from men who had had sex with other men in the past year. Some social media posts had mistakenly informed people that there was now no ban.
Even a politician in Orlando’s city government believed that, as Mashable quotes her saying:
“I understand the blood banks are accepting blood from everyone. I think that’s appropriate right now, because there has been a ban on gay men donating blood,” Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan told MSNBC. “I think it’s appropriate right now — you can screen the blood, maybe this tragedy is the one thing that took that ban away.”
As a result, OneBlood clarified on Twitter that they were adhering to FDA rules in accepting blood donations. According to the Washington Post, they hadn’t even updated their system to adhere to the FDA change in 2012, but expect to do so later this year.
The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood has been criticized as “a homophobic policy.” It’s ironic that such a policy, even though it has been relaxed recently, could have impacted the survivors of a mass shooting that is thought to have been an anti-LGBT hate crime.
There is good news, though.
So many people have responded to OneBlood’s call for donations that they’re at capacity. That’s a silver lining to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.