“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.”
“In 2011, a Congress member from Indiana helped pass federal legislation to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.
Two years later, the last Planned Parenthood affiliate in Scott County, Indiana, closed its doors because of budget cuts. It was also the last HIV testing center in the county. By 2015, an HIV outbreak was brewing in the state. At the peak of the outbreak, 20 new cases were being diagnosed per week, with a total of nearly 200 cases eventually reported, according to HuffPost.
But that Congress member, who became Indiana’s governor, didn’t want to authorize a needle-exchange program to stop the spread of the virus.
“I don’t believe effective anti-drug policy involves handing out drug paraphernalia,” he said.
That Indiana governor was, of course, Mike Pence. Now he’s the vice president, and on Wednesday, President Trump put him in charge of fighting coronavirus in the US.”
“In general, the administration has sought to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups, reproductive health advocates say, without regard to the public health implications. The administration’s policies have already made it harder for low-income Americans to get screening for conditions like breast and cervical cancer. And some fear that, especially with Pence in charge, the administration could put politics over science when it comes to coronavirus response too.”
“Finally, over two months after the HIV outbreak was reported, Pence said he would pray on the issue, according to the New York Times. Two days later, he issued an executive order for syringes to be distributed in Scott County.
The distribution helped stop the epidemic, according to the Times. But Pence didn’t actually allocate new money for the program, or for fighting the epidemic generally, forcing state officials to cut other health programs, Meyerson said: “overall, his governorship showed that he did not commit to an adequately funded public health infrastructure.””
“Last year, the administration issued a rule barring Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform or refer for abortions from getting federal funding through Title X, a program aimed at providing family planning services to low-income Americans. As a result, nearly 1,000 health centers around the country have lost funding, making it harder for many Americans to get necessary services like cancer screening or HIV tests.”
“Also in 2017, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS resigned in protest, with one writing in Newsweek that “the Trump administration has no strategy to address the ongoing H.I.V./AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate H.I.V. policy, and — most concerning — pushes legislation that will harm people living with H.I.V. and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”
Then, in 2019, the Trump administration cut funding for fetal-tissue research, despite long-standing arguments by scientific and medical experts that such research is crucial for developing vaccines and treatments for diseases. Research into AIDS and other conditions has already suffered as a result, Carter said.”