Watch: Andy Cohen Turned Away from Blood Donation Because He's Gay

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday July 29, 2020

Andy Cohen was a guest on Tuesday's episode of The View, where he discussed being a new father and raising his son, life in quarantine, and — as Meghan McCain suggested — his potential for being a moderator for the Presidential debates if he were to be considered (he's not currently).

The show's cohost Joy Behar mentioned that Cohen had tested positive for COVID-19, has since recovered, and yet, is not allowed to donate blood "because you're a gay man. Now, why is that? It's not that your blood is infected in any way. What is it? How did you react when you found out? And what is the reason?"

Cohen explains in a roundabout way that his inability to donate blood is a consequence of outdated FDA regulations pertaining to men who have sex with men and the potential for HIV transmission, elaborating:

"I was surprised, because I signed up for a program with Mt. Sainai because they needed the plasma of people who had survived COVID and they said, 'You can't do it.' I was hurt. I just thought, 'Well this is crazy. Technology has come so far that you've got to be looking at this.' Now this was a few months ago... I had another test last week, for COVID, to see what my antibodies were, and my doctor said, 'Oh my god, your antibodies are so robust,' which she found to be unusual four months [later]."

Ultimately, Cohen found it disappointing that, because of FDA guidelines, he wasn't able to make a donation that could potentially help people fighting COVID. Cohen disclosed his HIV-negative status, and argued that donation centers could screen his blood multiple times before accepting his donation.

[READ MORE: Gay and Bi Men Still Turned Away from Blood, Plasma Donations]

Unfortunately, Cohen's case isn't unique. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Vitalant, "one of the largest blood providers with about 125 donation centers nationwide including six in the Bay area," has yet to update rules for donation despite the FDA having reduced the required timeframe for gay and bisexual men to remain celibate prior to donation.

Vitalant not only appears to be dragging its feet in changing its rules, but have allegedly turned away gay and bisexual donors without referring them to other centers, something Dr. Deboarh Cohan, a professor at University of California San Francisco, has criticized as "an incredibly shaming experience." In response, Vtialant now says they have referred gay and bisexual men to other donation centers.

In a period where there is an alleged blood shortage, the Red Cross and AABB (previously known as the American Association of Blood Banks) have encouraged the implementation of new policies for gay and bisexual male blood donation.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.