OP/ED: Should HIV Infected Athletes Be Allowed To Play Contact Sports

There are hundreds of thousands of people, children and adults alike, who indulge and admire the world that surrounds sports.

Of those who hold sports close to their hearts, several, if not all, spend their free time being involved with their favorite sport, whether on an organized team or with friends.

Sports like basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and hockey are easily ones that are adored by our society. However, when it comes to personal interaction in sports which require rough contact and attract many injuries, have you wondered whether, if the player opposite you strikes you, drawing blood from both parties, there is a possibility that they have HIV? Is there a likelihood that you would contract it?

Not many people ponder that question while playing sports. Many have their mind set on victory and don’t think about the other team at all. But if knowledge were gained about an opposing player having HIV, would you continue to play against him or her?

It is safe to say that a vast majority of people would become reluctant to take place in any type of physical activity knowing that an opposing player is HIV positive.

HIV-infected athletes face tremendous prejudices held by their healthy counterparts.

No one wants to put himself in jeopardy of contracting the disease even though it is spread through the blood. HIV can also be present in tears and saliva, but there are no documented cases of it being spread via those outlets.
Even so, in the most physical sports arena, American football, there has been no documented case, to date, of HIV transmission from one athlete to another. Experts claim that the probability of transmission in American football is estimated to be less than one in a million.

Likewise, in the bloodiest sports of boxing, wrestling and ice hockey, no cases of transmission have been documented.

When it comes to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, it has been noted, in a survey from 1992, that only 12 of the 548 schools reported having HIV positive or AIDS diagnosed athletes.

“There are NCAA guidelines that have to be abided by when it comes to students with the disease, but there are no rules disqualifying them from participation,” said Meredith Pope, Mercy College’s Head Athletic Trainer. “Regardless of the player’s medical background, when there is an open wound, the player must be immediately removed from the field of play until the wound is covered. When there is blood on a player or their equipment, each team must come prepared with an extra uniform for the player to change into before returning to the field of play.”

With precautions set in place, there are no reasons, medically, why an HIV positive athlete should not be allowed to participate in contact sports.

Personal prejudices can cause one to be the judge, but think about the iconic athletes such as Earvin “Magic” Johnson (basketball), Greg Louganis (diver) and Arthur Ashe (tennis) who have competed at the intercollegiate, professional, and amateur level, and their impact on the world of sports as we know it.