Blood Connects Us All

Blood connects us all: This is the powerful message behind the World Health Organization's 2016 Blood Donor Day. But it's a message that, in many ways, may seem unintentionally painful after the devastating June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida that left 49 victims killed and 53 wounded. Yet, it's a fact that remains as true as ever: By saving countless lives every year, blood donations give us the opportunity to personally connect and aid others in their time of need. And as an attack directed specifically against the Latinx LGBTQ community, this message of connection, fostered through a simple blood donation, can help a group of people that faces an epidemic of violence simply for being who they are.

The WHO's Blood Donor Day, held on June 14, has two primary missions: inspire people to donate themselves, and thank the millions of people who have already donated their blood to help those in need. According to The Red Cross, someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, but less than 10 percent of those eligible to donate blood actually do so. What's more, many of those who wish to donate can't — a discriminatory ban prohibits gay and bisexual men from donating blood for 12 months after having sex with another man.

The importance, therefore, of educating, encouraging, and eliminating the discrimination around blood donation cannot be overstated.

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Due to an outpouring of support from Floridians who came out in droves to donate blood to the victims of the Orlando shooting, the WHO will be adding hundreds to the list of those that deserve thanks on Blood Donor Day. In fact, so many people came out, that blood donation center OneBlood asked participants to return in the coming days, as their facilities were at capacity.

The WHO's message of connection through blood in the context of the Orlando shooting becomes even more significant: Images depicting the loss of blood have run rampant throughout the coverage of the horrific event. To be able to give some of that blood back through the simple act of donating becomes a powerful, and in some ways political, act. It helps your fellow human being, but it also takes a strong stance against the bigotry and hatred that fostered this tragedy in the first place.

Blood connects us in the same way the human spirit does. By participating in World Blood Day, either by thanking donors or donating yourself, you're helping to facilitate and strengthen that connection. Continuing to build that connection ought to be honored on World Blood Day and every other day of the year.