Counter productive, outdated and discriminatory

Celebrating National Blood Donor Month, an excellent Philadelphia Daily News column highlights the shame of the continuing ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men. In addition to the points the columnist makes — that the blood is needed, tested, and that other risks go unexamined, the ban sends the harmful and delusional message of “risk groups,” outside of which the virus is presumed not to be a threat.

If policy is to proactively prevent the spread of the virus that leads to AIDS, a more constructive move would be to ban abstinence only education, a proven risk.

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Not a complicated matter

Two and a half years ago in Australia I was speaking to a young Zimbabwean man who said President Clinton was one of the greatest presidents in American history. As eight years of peace and prosperity leaves good memories, especially in the midst of what followed, his remark seemed founded in a level of common sense.

Then, however, he went on to tell me that the other “greatest president” in my country’s history was the current President Bush.

People like people who give them money, a friend explained to me later.

And so our 43rd president, reviled here, unlikely to be redeemed by history, will be remembered well elsewhere.

And although the importance of his one well-founded policy of his President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief should not eclipse the catastrophic effects of his other policies, it is right that Bush be remembered with credit for PEPFAR, in spite of, but with recognition of flaws that put ideology over evidence and thus weakened its effectiveness.

Overall, though, the infusion of money and concrete goals to fight AIDS in the nations hit hardest by the epidemic was the right thing to do, that was two decades overdue by the time it came about.

It can be credibly argued that Bush’s emphasis on faith and ideology made the $15 billion five year plan an easier sell than it would have been for his predecessors, and that is why no one did what should it before.

But it can also be argued that leaders with greater mandates, who were elected, not appointed to office as Bush was, should do the right thing sooner, better, when addressing humanitarian concerns.

Death denying?

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Christine Maggiore is dead, and the tragedy of another life lost pointlessly would disappear into the mass of so many before hers but for the sad fact that for all that could be learned from her losses, likely nothing will be.

That is because those who know that HIV causes AIDS will go on knowing it, but those who believe it doesn’t, as she believed, will go on ignoring science and facts as sad as this and the death of her three-year-old daughter.

As the uncountable lives lost to AIDS before hers did, Christine Maggiore’s had much to offer, and for a while did, until she met the wrong person, who told her what she apparently needed to hear — that the problem that had upended her life did not exist.

With that new belief replacing scientific evidence in her mind, Maggiore went on to bear and breast feed two children, one of whom died of HIV-related pneumonia in 2005.

And as awful as it is to think of such a death for a child, that tragedy becomes a dot when the work of denialists is counted, in the deaths and and infections that will continue for decades to come because of South African President Thabo Mbecki’s denial that HIV could be treated, and prevented from becoming AIDS.

And those tragedies in turn join unnumbered others, happening now, still to happen when governments put faith over science, and talk over action.

Here Christine Maggiore’s death stands out, because she was one of a few prominent denialists. Around the world there are more.

But American denialism takes other forms — in federal funding for abstinence only education, in discriminatory laws such as those passed in California, Florida and Arizona this past election banning same sex marriage, and in “balancing” the views of such as Pastor Rick Warren — proven by research to be ineffective, with the urgency of stopping the AIDS epidemic.

Your Seat at the Table

To have a say in continuing and reforming global AIDS funding, check this out.

Another solution

Too long neglected, that should be in the new national plan, is federally funded

But does it work?

Here’s news about a cheaper, but not very thoroughly tested female condom . . .fc_condom_hres

CDC releases the latest

The shifting data on HIV transmission in the United States have been updated, and CDC officials say they show progress.