National

Victims of gay nightclub shooting need blood — but many gay men can't help

Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, right, is comforted by an Orlando Police officer after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016.
Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, right, is comforted by an Orlando Police officer after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. AP

Hospitals and blood banks are seeking blood donations after a mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub that claimed at least 50 lives early Sunday morning and wounded at least 53 more.

But restrictions on who can donate blood mean that many gay men are prohibited from giving back.

Until last December, the FDA had banned any men who had previously had sexual relations with other men from donating blood at all in the United States. Though the FDA lifted that lifetime ban, it still recommended only accepting donations from male donors who hadn’t had sex with another man for at least a year.

Some reports suggested that blood banks were taking donated blood from those willing, regardless of their sexual orientation. One social media user reported that Orlando blood bank OneBlood was “accepting all donors” regardless of past sexual history, though all blood was being fully screened. Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan also told MSNBC that she “understands” that OneBlood is taking donations from gay men, Gawker reported.

But OneBlood said Sunday afternoon despite those reports, it was adhering to the FDA’s directive on gay donors on its Twitter.

After reaching capacity with willing donors, the blood bank asked Sunday that donors schedule appointments in the following days instead.

"I've been here 13 years and never seen a response like this," OneBlood spokesman Pat Michaels told the Orlando Sentinel. "The sentiment is understood and appreciated, but it's a little too much, too soon.”

The blood bank tweeted thanks to donors who arrived early Sunday to donate blood, and asked possible donors to instead also donate over the next few days:

One tweet showed hundreds of people lining up outside a blood bank waiting to donate blood Sunday.

  Comments