In March, the American talk show host revealed he had tested positive for the virus, telling his Instagram followers that he underwent a test after spending a few days in self-isolation, during which time he was “not feeling great”.
The host of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, who has since recovered, hoped he would be able to donate his plasma to help others suffering from the virus.
However, he has been barred from doing so because he is gay. In the US, guidelines published by the FDA stipulate that blood donations should be deferred for men who have “a history in the past three months of sex with another man”.
Speaking on talk show The View via video chat, Cohen explained that he had been aware that gay men were not allowed to donate blood.
“This has been something that has been going on for years,” the 52-year-old said.
“It was something that I took as fact in the early days of HIV in the ‘90s if I ever tried to give blood. The testing for HIV was far less sophisticated and accurate and fast as it is now.”
More than two decades on, Cohen felt “surprised” and “hurt” when he was barred from donating his plasma, despite being informed he had potent levels Covid-19 antibodies.
“I was surprised because I had signed up for a programme with Mount Sinai because they needed the plasma of people who had survived Covid, and they said you can’t do it,” he said.
“I was hurt. I just thought, well this is crazy – technology has come so far that you’ve got to be looking at this.”
Cohen said that he found out he was unable to donate plasma a few months ago, and underwent another test last week for the coronavirus and to ascertain what his levels of antibodies were.
“The doctor said, ‘Oh my god, your antibodies are so robust,’ which she found to be unusual four months after having originally tested positive for Covid,” he told The View panellists.
“I thought, ‘What a loss. Here I have these robust antibodies and I can’t share my plasma and possibly help anybody.’ So extreme disappointment.”
The View co-host Sunny Hostin commented that the guidelines that prevented Cohen from donating his plasma are “discriminatory”, to which he replied: “It is discriminatory. I don’t understand it.”
Cohen stated his belief that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about HIV being present in the blood of gay men who donate plasma.
“I’m HIV-negative,” he said. “You can find that out and you can test my blood a couple of times before putting it into a system.”
In the US, blood donors who are deferred include women with “a history in the past three months of sex with a man who has had sex with another man in the past three months”.
In the UK, the NHS states that “gay and bisexual men are not automatically prevented from giving blood”.
“However, all men must wait three months after having oral or anal sex with another man before donating,” the health service outlines.
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