Doctor calls for loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay men to help fight coronavirus

BOSTON (WHDH) - A Mass General Hospital doctor is calling for restrictions to be lifted on gay men looking to donate blood after recovering from the coronavirus but being unable to give his plasma to help fight the disease.

Dr. Jack Turban and his partner got the coronavirus in April and recovered, and Turban wanted to donate his plasma to patients who are still battling the virus. Experts believe that donors’ antibodies can help resist the virus, but because Turban is gay, he can’t donate without going through a three-month period of abstinence first.

That restriction is based on outdated concerns about transmitting HIV through blood donations, according to Dr. Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

“Our HIV testing has advanced so much, we can test the blood supply and we do routinely test and ensure plasma is safe, but our policy has not caught up with that science,” Marcus said.

Marcus and Turban said the U.S. should adopt a different policy like what is used in Spain and Italy, where all donors are screened for risky behavior. That would allow gay men to donate more easily, which could increase the plasma available to help fight the disease and give them a way to help out, Turban said.

“There are a lot of people who are at home right now who are frustrated they can’t help out generally,” Turban said. “Donating blood is one of a few ways you can get out there and help, and feel like you have agency in a situation where a lot of us feel powerless.”

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