49 people are dead and 53 are injured after a gunman opened fire at the gay nightclub Pulse early Sunday morning, and the people of Orlando have overwhelmingly responded with blood donations to help the victims.
One Blood, the blood donation center in Orlando, said on Facebook Sunday afternoon that there is a “tremendous response by blood donors,” and they are asking potential donors to schedule appointments over the next several days.
But gay people may not be able to provide that blood to their friends and family members. According to the FDA guidelines, a man is barred from donating blood if he has had sex with another man in the past year. This law effectively bans many gay men from donating blood.
Omar Mateen, 29, allegedly was motivated to carry out the shooting by his homophobia, according to comments by his father.
Orlando officials said they are holding off on identifying any of the victims until after all of their families have been notified. But since the shooting occurred at a gay nightclub, it's likely many of the victims are gay.
The FDA guidelines stem from the days of the AIDS epidemic. In 1983, the FDA banned gay and bisexual men from ever being eligible to donate blood in fears of transmitting HIV via blood transfusion, according to NPR.
At the end of 2015, the FDA updated their restrictions, lifting the lifetime ban for men who have sex with men and transgender women. Under the current guidelines, men cannot give blood if they have had sex with a man within the last year. Women and transgender women are also banned from giving blood if they have had sex with a man who has had sex with a man within the last year.
But blood donors today are screened for HIV, which is why many have called the current ban discriminatory. With the current screening, the CDC estimates the chances of being infected with HIV from blood donation to be 1 in 1.5 million.
Despite earlier reports that the FDA ban had been lifted, One Blood confirmed via Twitter that all federal guidelines are in effect in Orlando.
Correction: this post was updated to reflect the FBI's revised death toll from the massacre. The initial number of 50 included the shooter.