Like millions of Americans, Lance Bass was compelled to donate blood to help some of the 527 concertgoers injured during Sunday’s deadly Las Vegas shooting.
But the Federal Drug Administration prevents men who’ve had sex with other men within the past 12 months from donating blood — preventing Bass, who is openly gay and married to husband Michael Turchin, from donating.
“How is it STILL illegal for gays to donate blood??!!” the 38-year-old singer wrote on Twitter Monday night. “I want to donate and I’m not allowed. 😤”
Other gay men spoke out about the ban in the wake of the Vegas tragedy.
“Antiquated, homophobic standards prevent gay men like me from donating life-saving blood,” wrote one user.
“It infuriates me that gay & bisexual men can be turned away from donating blood in Las Vegas because of the @US_FDA’s discriminatory policy,” added LGBT advocate, writer, and speaker Shane Bitney Crone.
According to the FDA, its decision to make men who have had sex with other men defer for 12 months from their most recent sexual contact before they donate is based on several years of research and recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The policy was originally put in place as a lifetime ban, implemented by the FDA in 1983 at the start of the AIDS crisis.
At the time, little was known by sciences about the spread of the disease — though now, the AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks), America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross have all said the FDA’s ruling is “medically and scientifically unwarranted.” They have long urged the FDA to modify blood donation policies so they are “comparable with criteria for other groups at increased risk of sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections.”
But the FDA, who changed its policy to a 12-month ban in 2015, stands by its decision. “At present, there are insufficient scientific data available to determine whether it is safe to rely only on individual behavioral risk factors when determining donation eligibility,” the FDA’s “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products” states. “The Red Cross continues to work with the FDA and our blood industry partners to gather additional scientific risk data to assist the FDA in determining if further changes are warranted in the future.”
There is no deferral for a woman who has had sex with another woman, the individual therefore eligible to donate blood. The same applies to individuals who identify as transgender or intersex.
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On Monday afternoon, officials said that at least 59 people had been killed and 527 more were injured.
Authorities in Las Vegas are still searching for a motive for 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada — the gunman who opened fire Sunday night on the crowd of more than 22,000 from his 32nd-floor hotel room at the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel.
When authorities entered Paddock’s room, they found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There is no connection between the shooting and international terrorism, according to the FBI.
How to Help and Learn About Loved Ones
Friends and family are asked to report missing people believed to be connected to the shooting using the hotline 1-800-536-9488.
Anyone with photo or video evidence of the shooting is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
The city of Las Vegas has established a Family Reunification Center to help connect relatives with the more than 500 people who were injured.
In addition, city officials urged those locally who wish to donate blood to visit one of two donation centers operated by United Blood Services, either at 6930 W. Charleston in Las Vegas or at 601 Whitney Ranch Drive in Henderson, Nevada.
A victims’ fund has been started on GoFundMe by Steve Sisolak the Clark County, Nevada, commission chair. Other groups providing relief include the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the National Compassion Fund.