“First passed in 2003 under President George W. Bush, PEPFAR is a vehicle for distributing HIV/AIDS drugs to people in poor countries who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. It has been astonishingly effective: The most recent US government estimates suggest it has saved as many as 25 million lives since its enactment. It is currently supporting treatment for over 20 million people who depend on the program for continued access to medication.
Given its success, PEPFAR has historically enjoyed bipartisan support. In 2018, Congress reauthorized PEPFAR for another five years without a fuss. But this time around, things look different. Some House Republicans, prodded by an array of influential groups, are threatening to block another five-year reauthorization. Their argument is pure culture war: that PEPFAR has become a vehicle for promoting abortion.
In reality, PEPFAR is legally prohibited from funding abortion services, and the argument against the program on anti-abortion grounds is very thin. But in today’s political climate, where the culture war reigns supreme on the right, this is enough to jeopardize the continued good functioning of a program that the Republican Party used to champion.”
“Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni this week signed into law his country’s most aggressive assault yet on the rights of Uganda’s LGBT community. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill dictates a life sentence for anyone caught having gay sex and the death penalty for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” a term that encompasses sex with minors or sex that results in the transfer of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. Furthermore, the law says anyone who “promotes homosexuality” be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison in a “vaguely worded” provision that puts activists and public health advocates at risk.”
“In 1985, during the AIDS epidemic, the FDA placed a lifetime blood donation ban on all men who have ever had sex with men.
The policy was created to prevent blood banks from collecting blood that contains HIV. Since the AIDS crisis though, the US has instituted extensive procedures to test blood donations for infectious diseases, including HIV, to minimize this risk. It’s true that gay and bisexual men account for a large proportion of new HIV infections each year. It’s also true that tests to screen blood aren’t perfect. The risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion isn’t zero. But it is currently around 1 in 1.5 million.
The problem is that being gay isn’t the real risk factor here. Why should a monogamous gay man who has sex only with his husband be barred from donating blood when a heterosexual man who had condomless sex with 100 female partners in the past three months can? The latter is at dramatically greater risk of HIV infection.”
“Earlier this month, the FDA shortened the ban to three months of abstinence from sex with other men, due in large part to the drastic drop in blood donations since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.”
” The new FDA guidance is a good but insufficient step forward. It’s still going to leave out the vast majority of men who have sex with men. And it still promotes the internalized homophobia many gay men experience from growing up in a homophobic society: You can only be good and pure if you don’t have gay sex. This is psychologically damaging, unscientific, and wrong.
The rules need to change and be based on scientific behavioral risk factors. “Instead of a blanket ban on recent sex between men, we need to explore an approach that asks all donors about their recent behaviors, including condom use, number of partners, and use of preexposure prophylaxis, which we know is highly effective in preventing HIV,” explains Dr. Julia Marcus, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, where she studies the epidemiology of HIV. Such risk-based screening systems have been successfully implemented in Spain, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa.”