Andy Cohen has fully recovered after testing positive for COVID-19 in March.
The Watch What Happens Live host says he is ready to donate his antibody-rich plasma, but is unable to do so because he is a gay man.
The FDA loosened its restrictions early in April to allow men who have sex with other men to donate blood after three months of no sexual contact, but many call the policy outdated due to effective HIV testing.
Unfortunately, he can’t do that. On his show, Watch What Happens Live, Cohen took a few minutes to share his frustrations around trying to donate plasma as a gay man. The 51-year-old father of one says current federal guidelines are outdated, especially as the virus is “ravaging the planet.”
“I signed up for a program for COVID-19 survivors where you could donate plasma, which is rich in antibodies, to those still battling the virus,” Cohen explained. “I was told that, due to antiquated and discriminatory guidelines by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to prevent HIV, I am ineligible to donate blood because I am a gay man.”
The FDA loosened its restrictions early in April to allow men who have sex with other men to donate blood after three months (instead of a full year) of no sexual contact. The shorter deferral time comes in an effort to provide more blood quickly during the pandemic, as studies show it will not compromise safety, the agency says.
“The FDA says there is an urgent need for plasma from survivors. All donated blood is screened for HIV, and a rapid HIV test can be done in 20 minutes or less,” Cohen says. “So why the three-month rule? Why are members from my community being excluded from helping out when so many people are sick and dying?”
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that the FDA and the Red Cross have been collecting from people who previously tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Red Cross, those who have fully recovered from the illness have antibodies in their plasma, which are unique proteins the body makes to fight against invading pathogens, like the novel coronavirus.
Before filling out the donation form, those interested in supplying plasma have to meet certain requirements, including age, upstanding health, and a prior diagnosis of COVID-19. These will all be verified by a representative upon completing the donor form.
With a significantly lower-than-normal blood supply in the U.S., donations are needed now more than ever, which is why Cohen wanted to answer the call to action. He was told he was a perfect candidate up until the moment he disclosed that he is a gay man. “My blood could save a life, but instead, it’s over here boiling,” he said on his show.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Cohen acknowledged that gay men pose a higher risk for HIV, however, with quick HIV tests available, he says the guidelines should be reconsidered.
“My feeling is, we’ve been asked to change our way of life because we’re at war with this virus and we’ve been able to adapt to a whole lot of things that we weren’t used to two months ago,” Cohen tells Cooper. “I think that it’s time for the FDA to look at this antiquated rule and say, ‘This is ridiculous.’”
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