At the end of “Watch What Happens Live” Thursday, Cohen said he had recently attempted to donate plasma, which is rich in antibodies, to those battling the coronavirus. In March, the 51-year-old revealed he’d tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus; he has since recovered.
“I was told that due to antiquated and discriminatory guidelines by the FDA to prevent HIV, I am ineligible to donate blood because I’m a gay man,” Cohen said, referring to the controversial deferral policy intended to reduce the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus.
Though the FDA recently updated its guidance for such donations, he said that “even the new relaxed rules require gay men to abstain from sex for three months, whether they’re in a monogamous relationship or not, before giving blood.”
Such restrictions, which don’t apply to heterosexual people, value “stigma over science,” Cohen added.
“My blood could save a life, but instead it’s over here boiling,” he said. “This pandemic has forced us to adapt in many ways. We’re quarantining. We’re social distancing. We’re wearing masks. Why can’t we adapt when it comes to this rule?”
Cohen’s remarks drew praise from GLAAD and other LGBTQ advocacy groups.
Calls to revise regulations on blood donations from gay and bisexual men have ramped up as the coronavirus outbreak has intensified around the world. Amid the pandemic, hospitals face a potential shortage of blood supplies, while the Red Cross has been forced to cancel thousands of blood drives since the start of March in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
A lifetime ban on blood donations from men who had sex with men was first established in the 1980s during the HIV/AIDS crisis. That policy remained in place until 2015, at which time the deferral period was reduced to one year—meaning gay and bisexual male donors had to abstain from sex for 12 months before giving blood.
In early April, the FDA announced that, in light of the “urgent and immediate need for blood and blood components,” it was reducing its recommended deferral policy for gay and bisexual men to three months.
Many doctors and LGBTQ rights advocates, however, have continued to speak out, arguing that any deferral period in 2020 is both discriminatory against LGBTQ people and dangerous amid the coronavirus crisis.
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