Blood donors rush to help in Orlando

Witness: 'Blood everywhere' after Orlando club shooting
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    Witness: 'Blood everywhere' after Orlando club shooting

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Witness: 'Blood everywhere' after Orlando club shooting 00:55

Story highlights

  • Orlando blood bank calls for blood donations, and hundreds lined up to donate
  • Shooting was at gay club, but FDA doesn't allow most gay or bisexual men to donate

(CNN)After the worst mass shooting in history, there was an immediate and urgent call for blood donors to help the hospitals working with the massive influx of injured.

Orlando's OneBlood donation center put a call out on Twitter, saying there was an "urgent need for O Neg, O Pos and AB Plasma donors following a mass shooting in Orlando."
    So many people have responded, the organization's website crashed, and the voice mailbox is full.
    But while this incident happened at a gay bar, the official rules from the Food and Drug Administration do not allow gay or bisexual men to donate blood if they have had sex with another man in the past 12 months.
    Footage from CNN affiliate WFTV showed hundreds of people lining up at the blood bank to donate. With dozens of people injured and hospitalized, there will be an ongoing need for blood.
    Blood donors must be in good general health, must be at least 17 years old -- in most states, including Florida -- and must weigh at least 110 pounds, according to the Red Cross.
    The FDA previously imposed a near lifetime ban on accepting blood donations from men who have had sex with men but updated its guidance on the issue in 2015.
    That ban went into effect in 1985, at the start of the AIDS epidemic, when the FDA recommended that blood donation groups "indefinitely defer male donors who have had sex with another male, even one time, since 1977, due to the strong clustering of AIDS illness and the subsequent discovery of high rates of HIV infection in the population."
    Since then, screening technologies have vastly improved. At the time of the rules revision, the Human Rights Campaign said that the change was a "step in the right direction" but that the new policy "still falls short of a fully acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men."
    If you don't live in the Orlando area but are eligible and want to donate blood, your local blood center could use your help. Blood centers often see a drop in donations during the summer months.
    If you would like to donate blood in your area, call the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS for more information.