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Another major country lifted its gay blood-donor ban. It's about time.

It's time to lift the ban. And it's been time for quite a while now.

I remember sitting alone awkwardly in a row of empty chairs at a campus blood drive when my friend looked over, smiled weakly, and mouthed, "I'm sorry."

She was standing in the line to donate blood. I'd gone with her to do the same thing, but I'd been told I wasn't allowed.

I wanted my blood to help someone out there who could use it. So it hurt feeling that this supposedly dirty part of me just wasn't good enough.


Image via iStock.

I wasn't allowed to donate blood because I'm a gay man. On that day a few years ago, I learned my blood wasn't just deemed less valuable — it was considered potentially dangerous.

When HIV became a public health crisis in America in the 1980s, the FDA banned donations from all men who have sex with men (MSM), aiming to ensure the nation's blood supply was kept safe.

Marchers in the AIDS Walk of 1995 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty Images.

Many other countries around the world also put similar bans in place.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now, we know much more about HIV and how it spreads than we did in the 1980s, and technologies that screen blood for the virus have improved greatly. So really, banning blood donations from men like me isn't justifiable — and it hasn't been for a while.

It's rooted in homophobia. It contributes to the stigma surrounding gay and bi men when it comes to HIV/AIDS, and it makes for a smaller pool of donors when blood is needed.

Fortunately, countries are slowly coming around to this realization. France is the latest.

In July 2016, its 33-year ban was reversed, allowing French MSM to donate.

Photo by Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images.

“This is a good sign, which shows that men who have sex with other men are becoming less stigmatized,” Sophie Aujean of advocacy group ILGA-Europe told France 24.

The FDA reversed a similar provision in the U.S. in December 2015. Canada, too, is on the fast track to lifting its ban.

Photo by Chris Roussakis/AFP/Getty Images.

These are all important steps forward. But there's a catch to the new guidelines in France, America, and Canada.

In each country, MSM must abstain from sex for at least one year before donating blood. Many advocates have argued that this expectation, while much improved from the previous status quo, still favors fear over actual science — and they point out that this discriminatory policy has real-world impact.

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at an Orlando LGBTQ nightclub in June, MSM were still prevented from giving blood.

How horrible is it that gay and bisexual men were stopped from helping save the lives of victims in their own community?


The irony is a grim reminder of why these kinds of discriminatory policies need changing.

I can still remember feeling like an outcast that day when I was told my blood wasn't good enough just because of who I am.

While we should recognize the positive steps forward on this issue, we also need to double down on demanding that our governments use science and facts — not fear and homophobia — to decide policy.

No one should be made to feel dirty or dangerous or judged the way I did on that day simply because of who they love.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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