We've had a Red Cross truck parked on campus all day today. People were encouraged to come by and donate blood, which, of course, is a great initiative per se. But what happened to my colleague Kola, who is our Fulbright scholar from Nigeria, is not so great.
As you can discover from his most recent post, Kola was denied the opportunity to donate blood simply because of his place of origin. For some reason, being from Nigeria or even having sexual relations with a Nigerian disqualifies you from giving blood in the US. As Kola discovered, this happens because in some bigoted minds Nigeria is firmly linked to the HIV.
So is it true that a Nigerian is more likely to be HIV positive than an American? Here are some statistics: "In Nigeria, an estimated 3.1 percent of adults between ages 15-49 are living with HIV and AIDS." (More information here.) In the US the percentage of people infected with HIV is actually very similar: "In March 2009 Washington DC reported an HIV prevalence of at least 3% among people over 12 years - similar to rates in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa." (More information here.) Actually, as I was walking past the blood bank I heard two American students talking about donating blood. They both said that it was a good idea but they couldn't participate right now because neither of them could guarantee that they were not HIV positive.
My colleague was told that the blood bank's refusal to accept his blood has to do with FDA requirements. It's easy to blame such things on the FDA. When we consider the matter, however, it becomes obvious that the only reason for anybody to be be more suspicious of Nigerian blood than of American blood is racism.