The UK changes its blood donation policies allowing more gay and bisexual men to give

A lot has changed since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the '80s. Sadly, up to 40 million people died across the world due to the epidemic, but the numbers have been dropping rapidly over the past 15 years.

New HIV infections have been reduced by 40% since the infection rate reached its peak in 1998, and AIDS-related deaths are down 60% since 2004.

Over the past three decades, scientific advancements have turned an HIV diagnosis from a death sentence to a manageable condition. As a result, many countries in the Western world are beginning to reevaluate how the medical community sees those most likely to become infected.



via Matt Buck / Flickr

Currently, UK rules stipulate that "all men must wait three months after having oral or anal sex with another man before donating."

However, these rules were seen as unnecessary and discriminatory against men who have sex with men. So, starting in the summer, the UK is relaxing its rules and allowing all blood donors who have had one sexual partner and have been with them for more than three months to be able to donate.

These rules apply regardless of gender or the type of sex acts they've performed.

Donors who have had more than one sex partner or a new one in the past three months will be allowed to donate only if they've abstained from anal sex.

According to the CDC, anal sex is the riskiest type of intercourse for getting or transmitting HIV.

These recommended changes came after The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs — which advises the UK health department — examined the latest evidence regarding the safety of blood donors.

The UK government claims their new approach to blood donors is a "more individualized risk-based approach" to donor selection criteria. "Patients rely on the generosity and altruism of donors for their life-saving blood. I'm pleased to have concluded that these new changes to donor selection will keep blood just as safe," Su Brailsford, associate medical director at NHS Blood and Transplant," said according to the BBC.

"This landmark change to blood donation is safe and it will allow many more people, who have previously been excluded by donor selection criteria, to take the opportunity to help save lives," Health Secretary Matt Hancock adds.

"This policy is a fundamental shift toward recognizing people are individuals," Ethan Spibey, the founder of FreedomToDonate, a British activist group, told The New York Times. He added hoped it would "have ripple effects around the world for potentially millions of gay and bi men."

The United States recently relaxed its restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men. In 2015, the FDA lifted the lifetime ban for gay and bisexual males and reduced it to any men who had homosexual sex within the past 12 months.

On April 2, 2020, to help fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA reduced the ban to men who've had sex with men within the past three months.

The new ruling also allowed women who've had sex with a man who's had sex with a man to donate after three months of abstinence as well.

"To help address this critical need and increase the number of donations, the FDA is announcing today that based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data, we have concluded that the current policies regarding the eligibility of certain donors can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply," the notice said.

These changes in policy acknowledge that when it comes to how we see people from a medical perspective, it's more important to judge them based on their behavior than their sexuality. Responsibility knows no orientation, so hopefully, more governments will follow suit in reassessing how blood donors are evaluated.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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