All but seven of the states with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS were located in the south REUTERS

A 22-year-old Indiana man plans to sue after being rejected from a blood donation clinic for appearing to be gay.

I was humiliated and embarrassed, Aaron Pace told The Chicago Sun Times, It's not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can't. And I'm not even a homosexual.

In an interview with a staff member at Indiana's Bio-Blood Components Inc., Pace was forbidden from donating blood.

She said 'I'm sorry, but it's the way that you act and appear to be. [It's] your sexuality.' And I said 'because I'm what?' and she said 'because you're gay,' Pace told ABC News.

U.S. federal law has forbidden homosexuals from donating blood since the 1983 outbreak of HIV/AIDS started in San Francisco California.

But recent studies show that poverty, not sexuality is driving an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South.

The counties suffering from the highest rates of HIV/AIDS are predominantly located in the South, according to an analysis of data from 43 states conducted by USA Today.

Income levels were closely correlated with HIV/AIDS rates, according to data compiled by Emory University's AIDSVu project. Among the counties with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS, average poverty rates registered at about 20 percent for Southern counties compared to 13 percent for the rest of the country. Black men and women were statistically more likely to be both impoverished and infected.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that HIV/AIDS is still stigmatized as a gay man's disease, according to Mississippi activist Cedric Sturdevant. Fearful of being ridiculed, people are not diagnosed until it is too late to take medications that drastically reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others.

Mississippi, being a Bible Belt state, is homophobic, Sturdevant said. You don't want people to know you're homosexual, if that's the case. If you're heterosexual, and you get infected, you don't want people to put you in the category of being homosexual.