It's more difficult to donate blood as a gay man in Florida than to buy an assault rifle with no questions asked. Following an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 50 people and wounded scores of others last night, Mic and others reported that blood bank OneBlood would be "accepting all donors" — crucially, including gay men. That's a big deal, since the official recommendation of the federal Food and Drug Administration is to turn away gay men from blood donations if they've had sex in the past year. However, the blood bank later said those reports were false, and that "all FDA guidelines remain in effect."
Blood is in CRISIS and will be accepting all donors (including gay men) #PrayForOrlando pic.twitter.com/36X1gE2ymy
— Mic (@mic) June 12, 2016
All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true.— OneBlood (@my1blood) June 12, 2016
The FDA only lifted the total recommended ban on donations from gay men last December, after the policy has been in place since 1983, when the AIDS epidemic was becoming a national panic. "We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply," the FDA's acting commissioner said at the time. Still, the new guidance is discriminatory — and immensely hurtful to survivors who are unable to help their own community after being attacked.
The 12-month limit on donations from gay men is an international standard, but it will still prevent lots of men from donating blood. However, the FDA's policy is guidance that local and private bodies aren't required to follow. As The Washington Post reported, the blood bank's guidelines haven't even caught up to the FDA's most recent standard, meaning it's still turning away all gay men from donating.
Line gathering at blood donation centers in Orlando. #PulseNightclubShooting pic.twitter.com/UCrakqFDYQ— Erica Bennett (@EricaANjax) June 12, 2016
Update June 13th 1:15PM ET: This story has been updated to reflect new comments from OneBlood, refuting the interpretation of earlier reports, and comments it made on Facebook. The blood bank says "all FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation." We have reached out to OneBlood for further clarification.