Don’t do this.
When the HIV epidemic began in the U.S. in 1981, the cases appeared mainly in major coastal cities, like New York and San Francisco, among gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users. And interactive maps showing current HIV cases from AIDSvu at Emory University shows the geographic path of how the disease expanded through the U.S.:
Cases are still concentrated in population centers, so Los Angeles, for example, has a high rate of HIV infections even though the Southwest appears to have had less impact than other regions. And as NPR points out, one of the reddest sections of the map — showing the highest rate of adults living with HIV — stretches through the Southeast:
The Southeast has been hard hit by HIV, with infections concentrated along the I-95 corridor from Washington to Florida, and in the Mississippi Delta. Eight of the 10 U.S. states with the highest rates of new HIV infection are located here. High rates of poverty factor in as well, as does the region’s low ranking on many basic health measures. Nearly 50 percent of newly diagnosed U.S. AIDS cases each year are reported in the South.
This week, the return of the International AIDS Conference to the United States is bringing a renewed focus on the HIV epidemic and the rights of populations that have been most impacted by HIV and AIDS. Policies upholding unfair prejudice against these populations, such as the continued lifetime ban on blood donation by men who have sex with men (MSM), encourage discriminatory attitudes without adding any benefit to public health. HIV advocates should continue to be concerned about U.S. blood donation standards, precisely because they shift attention from effective interventions against HIV, and reinforce outdated and inaccurate stereotypes that are harmful to public policy.
There is a stark contrast between the lifetime deferral for potential MSM donors and policies addressing the many non-MSM donors who are also considered to be high risk. The deferral periods for potential donors who have engaged in high-risk heterosexual sexual conduct are limited to one year. For example, a person who has heterosexual sexual contact with an injection drug user may not donate blood for 12 months.
Since its inception, the lifetime deferral policy for MSM blood donors has been called into question for its roots in anti-gay bias and its lack of scientific basis. Significant criticisms of the donation ban include: Continue reading