After the horrific shooting in Orlando, the many expected conversations began. As we always do when these things happen (because sadly, they happen way too often), we've been talking about gun control, the shooter's motive, and the safety of our kids. But this particular senseless event has also brought discussions about the blood-donation process — especially our problematic restrictions against donations from gay men — back to the forefront of the conversation.
Last year, the FDA announced that it was lifting its 32-year ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men — but only for those who are sexually abstinent for the 12 months prior to giving blood. After local centers put out a call for blood donations for the victims, many gay men spoke out on social media about the insulting irony of, as one user put it, "refusing to take a gay person's blood even though you need it to save a gay person's life."
In spite of the controversy, many were moved to see thousands of people across the state of Florida lining up to do what they could in the face of such tragedy.
And the truth is that blood is a year-round need. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, a patient in the U.S. needs blood.
Kara Lusk-Dudley, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, says that the summer months are an especially tough time for donations. That's partly because summer holidays lead to fewer blood-drive sponsors hosting drives and fewer donors being available thanks to summer vacations. "Donations from those who usually give at these drives drop by more than 80% when school is out for the summer," she explains. All of this means that your donations are particularly valuable right now.
Click through to learn what to expect when you give blood — and all about the grand journey your donation will take as it makes its way to save someone's life.