Now that being openly gay is illegal in Russia, a Moscow mayoral candidate is moving to ban homosexuals from donating blood, citing fears of HIV/AIDS.
Mikhail Dyegtyaryov is drawing anger from Russian activists, but the move helps him shore up the vote of many Russians and the Orthodox Church, according to Reuters.
Dyegtyaryov claims that his proposal will curb the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, but experts say the real problem is Russia’s high rates of drug addiction.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea said about 90 percent of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia happen in Russia or Ukraine.
AHF has 32 testing and prevention sites in those countries and treats thousands of patients, and Kenslea said homosexuality isn't the biggest factor to consider in the country's AIDS epidemic.
"Their epidemic is really driven by intravenous drug use," Kenslea told TakePart.
If it passes, the law in Russia will match the policy in the United States, where gay and bisexual men are banned from donating blood.
In the United States, activists are calling for a revision to the Food And Drug Administration’s rule, which has been in place since 1983.
American Red Cross officials say they’re required to follow the federal regulations, but the organization “does support the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among donors who engage in similar risk activities.”
American medical experts think the policy is outdated, and overlooks the fact that AIDS/HIV has been a growing problem among heterosexuals.
University of Southern California infectious disease specialist, Dr. Emily Blodget, told USA Today last month that the blood pool is very safe, and would stay very safe without the anti-gay regulation because of the rigorous testing that is standard today.
“To be honest, (HIV infection) could happen with anyone now. We need to be just as concerned with heterosexuals as homosexuals,” she said.
The mayor of Campbell, Calif., has taken up a petition to ask the FDA to end the lifetime ban on gay men who want to donate blood.
Mayor Evan Low says that although he has a hosted blood drive on city property, he can’t participate because he is a gay man. He calls the current FDA ban “wildly outdated” and says it perpetuates discrimination against gays.
“We are behind in our policies in comparison to other countries. Both Canada and the UK in recent years have lifted their lifetime ban restrictions,” Low writes.
Adding to the frustratation of Russia's gay community, the legislative attack on homosexuality didn’t stop at blood donations.
Dyegtyaryov told a press conference that Russian parliament is also working on a plan to give homosexuals free “conversion therapy” that would allow them to “return to normal life and become heterosexuals.”
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Original article from TakePart