The deadliest mass shooting in American history struck Las Vegas on October 1st, 2017, when shooter Stephen Paddock opened fire on those attending a music festival. He used a 16-gun arsenal and made a lethal assault from the window of a room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. When it was over, 59 were killed and 527 were injured.
What makes this hard for gay and bisexual men is that they can donate blood. The Obama administration relaxed FDA rules regarding blood donations that have not been changed in decades. But there is a catch; they are only eligible if they have not had sexual contact within the last 12 months.
Other gay men joined in on Twitter and criticized the FDA's ban on blood donations. One tweeted a reminder that he wanted to donate his O+ blood for Vegas but can't. Another put up a link to where to donate blood for Las Vegas victims, seeing as he couldn't either.
He also posted a tribute to the victims previously on Instagram, connecting it to another tragedy involving gun violence. The image of Las Vegas included a quote by Barbara Poma, the owner of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people in 2016.
When the AIDS epidemic spread in the mid to late-'80s, regulations were formed that barred men from donating blood if they had sex with other men. It made sense at the time since there was no accurate testing for HIV and many people accidentally contracted the disease from blood transfusions. But updates in blood testing have made that reasoning obsolete.
According to Dr. William Kobler of the American Medical Association, the lifetime ban on blood donations for gay men was not based on sound science. The FDA website shows that only 1 in 2 million blood transfusions result in an HIV infection. Nations such as the UK and Australia had already updated their donation rules as well.
The FDA still stands by their decision for its 12-month ban. The organization states that there is not enough data to determine the safety of relying on individual behavioral risk factors when deciding donation eligibility. The Red Cross also worked with the FDA in gathering scientific data to see if future changes are needed.
Advocacy groups in both the US and Canada are pushing their governments to end the ban. They consider it discriminatory and holding back the hundreds of men willing to provide during serious blood shortages. In the meantime, LGBTQ communities are sharing their experiences with loss and pain to help push for stronger gun safety laws.
Protests created by gay men have popped up in different forms Some have become volunteers at blood drives to spread awareness of the ban while giving a positive influence. Others have asked their friends and family to donate blood on their behalf.
Modern testing can single out infected blood, but the government and medical services are still holding onto stereotypes and discriminatory practices. As Dr. Kristopher Wells of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies said, "it's 2017, it's time for that to come to an end."