ORLANDO, Fla. – As droves of Orlando residents flocked to blood bank centers to donate in the wake of Sunday’s early-morning massacre at a popular gay nightclub, many were turned away because of their sexual orientation.
According to regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, gay men are banned from donating blood if they have had sex in the last 12 months.
Before December, gay men who had ever been sexually active could not donate blood at all, but the FDA revised its rules several months ago to allow some gay men to donate. For more on the FDA’s current donor deferral guidelines, go to fda.gov.
Susan Forbes, spokeswoman for OneBlood, said it takes time to make such regulation changes in the blood bank computer systems, and the OneBlood locations in Orlando have not completed the update, so the lifetime blood donation ban for gay men remains in place in Orlando.
Forbes said Orlando One Blood is working to change its system to allow gay men who have not had sex in the last year to donate, but the changes will take several more months.
She said about 60 percent of potential donors can’t give blood for one reason or another, being a gay man is just one of those reasons. Other deferral reasons include pregnancy, illness and international travel to certain locations.
Generally healthy people age 16 or older who weigh at least 110 pounds can donate blood.
Forbes said OneBlood does not make the laws and is obligated to follow the law.
OneBlood reached capacity Sunday afternoon.
The overwhelming response of donations followed a massacre inside Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando. U.S. officials said the slain shooter, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, opened fire at the club near downtown Orlando, killing 50 people and wounding at least 50 more in what is being called the worse mass shooting in U.S. history.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said ISIS has taken credit for the mass shooting.
As Orlando residents come to terms with the act of terrorism, blood bank officials ask that they consider donating blood over the next several days, when the supply will need to be replenished.
To make an appointment to donate, call 888-936-6283 or find the hours and locations of OneBlood on its website.
The University of Central Florida will be holding a blood drive with the Big Red Bus from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at the Student Union. Students, faculty, and staff interested in working with the Knights Bleed Black and Gold Blood Drive Advisory Council can contact BloodDrives@ucf.edu.