The FDA has eased restrictions on gay blood donors to help with the COVID-19 crisis
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Amid the AIDS epidemic in 1983, the FDA banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Back then, little was known about the disease and there were no quick tests to determine if someone had it.

These days HIV testing can be done in as little as 15 minutes and the disease can be detected as little as 18 days after initial exposure. The disease is also no longer a death sentence. Those who get proper medical treatment can live as long or almost as long as those who are HIV negative.

In 2015, the FDA lifted the lifetime ban for gay and bisexual males and reduced it to any men who had homosexual sex within the past year.


For many, these blood donation bans seemed to stem from homophobia.

Although HIV is more prevalent among gay and bisexual men, heterosexuals also engage in high-risk sexual behavior. But they were only banned from donating blood if they had sex with a prostitute, accepted payment for sex or injected drugs.

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Now, given the need for blood during the coronavirus crisis, the FDA has made big changes to its blood donation rules. On April 2, the FDA announced it had shortened the period of gay-sex abstinence from 12 months to just three.

"To help address this critical need and increase the number of donations, the FDA is announcing today that based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data, we have concluded that the current policies regarding the eligibility of certain donors can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply," the notice says.

"As a result of this public health emergency, there is a significant shortage in the supply of blood in the United States, which early implementation of the recommendations in this guidance may help to address (even though the recommendations in this guidance are broadly applicable beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency)," the memo says.

The new ruling also reduced the ban on donations from women who have had sex with a man who has had sex with a man to three months as well.

via Instinct / Twitter

The new policy also reduces the 12-month deferral to people who've had tattoos to three months and the lifetime ban for those who've exchanged sex for money and accepted money for sex to just three months.

President Trump is on board with the decision which is surprising given his lackluster record on LGBT rights.

"President Trump wants those who wish to donate blood and for those who accept the donations to be able to do so safely," White House Deputy Secretary Judd Deere said via email to the Washington Blade. "Today's decision is driven by health and science. The White House supports the Commissioner on this action."

Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO of GLAAD, celebrated the change but believes more has to be done.

"This is a victory for all of us who raised our collective voices against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood," Ellis said.

"The FDA's decision to lower the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months is a step towards being more in line with science, but remains imperfect, Ellis added. "We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ people, are treated equal to others."

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."