Bravo’s Andy Cohen is speaking out about the “antiquated and discriminatory” rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that prevent him and other gay men from donating blood to help patients suffering from coronavirus.
Testing is currently underway to determine if antibodies in the plasma of COVID-19 survivors can be used to treat patients currently battling the disease.
But Cohen, who recently recovered from the novel coronavirus after contracting it last month, says there’s a huge problem with the current rules for donating.
“I’ve got a bit of a rant so please indulge me,” Cohen said Thursday night (Apr. 24) as he was wrapping an episode of Watch What Happens Live.
“After recovering from the coronavirus, I wanted to see if there was something that I could do to help people who were infected. 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.
“I was told that due to antiquated and discriminatory guidelines by the FDA to prevent HIV, that I am ineligible to donate blood because I’m a gay man.”
To deal with the need for blood due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA recently eased up on their guidelines requiring gay and bisexual men to abstain from sex for a year before being eligible to donate blood to just 90 days.
The yearlong requirement was set back in 2015, and before that, men who had sex with men were banned from donating blood completely.
Cohen said the new rules are still too restrictive.
“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, though no such blanket restrictions exist for people of other sexual orientations,” Cohen pointed out.
He continued: “Here’s the thing: This virus is ravaging our planet and 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. 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? Maybe because we’re valuing stigma over science, I don’t know. My blood could save a life but instead it’s over here boiling.
“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? … It’s crazy they said, ‘No, you can’t.’ Insane.
“It is bad enough that quarantine has us wondering what day it is, I’m sitting here wondering what year it is.”
Cohen’s sentiments echo those of GLAAD, which launched a formal petition back in March calling for an end to the ban following U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams’ urgent call for donations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition has so far received more than 23,500 signatures … just 1,500 shy of their goal of 25,000 signatures.