Blood donor ban on gay men lifted in South Africa

Blood drive

The South African National Blood Services (SANBS) has lifted a ban on blood donation by gay men. Certain high risk categories of potential donors though, remained banned. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

Gay men across South Africa are now permitted to donate blood, according to shift in policy at the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).

A new “non-discriminatory” SANBS policy now considers those in monogamous homosexual relationships as eligible but there is still a restriction on certain high risk categories of potential donors.

Those with a new sexual partner, or multiple partners are not allowed to donate, regardless of their sexuality, as the risk of HIV/AIDS infection is too large.

Those with a new sexual partner, or multiple partners are not allowed to donate, regardless of their sexuality, as the risk of HIV/AIDS infection is too large, according to the SANBS.

Previously, only those who had been in heterosexual monogamous relationships for over six months were allowed to donate blood.

“As an organisation that is consistently improving the way we screen donors, and test the blood collected, SANBS together with the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) … have been working … to relook at the donor acceptance criteria with regards to the South African community,” read a SANBS press release.

The amendment to the questionnaire someone has to complete when donating blood on the definition of a sexual act has been altered, removing the question on male to male sex. The new policy will “address sexual risk, in that any sexual act or contact with a NEW partner/s during the preceding six months will be deemed a risk to the safety of blood supply, irrespective of the personal sexual orientation or preference”.

The previous policy existed as a result of international trends which sought to address the high rate of HIV-infection in South Africa.

Dawie Nel, a member of OUT, an organisation serving the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, is very happy with the SANBS’s announcement. He said, “Our argument was that it’s not about gay identity, but about risky behaviour and I hope it will encourage more gay men to donate blood.”

Queer rugby a gay time

QUEER AS FUN: Wham! members enjoy a day of social rugby at Wits.     Photo: Provided

QUEER AS FUN: Wham! members enjoy a day of social rugby at Wits. Photo: Provided

WHAM! A queer social rugby club based at Wits was started this year by Witsie Gabriel Khan and a group of his friends.

“I love rugby and I love the queers, it was the natural thing to do!” said Khan, who works for the Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA).

Wham! is made up of Wits students, some ex-Witsies as well as people who are linked to Activate, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersexual student society (LGBTI), as well as other GALA members.

“Wham! is about creating a healthy social space for queer people to meet and make friends, outside the usual scene of bars and clubs.”

“Although we have other queers who heard about rugby, and decided to join in as well, Activate has been great in supporting this initiative,” said Kahn. Khan said Wham! members come together every Saturday and play a game of rugby, usually followed by a drink and the vibe is “usually quite chilled.”

“There aren’t many safe spaces for queers to meet socially, and I thought sport is a healthy way to get out there and have a good time.”

Although Wham! started as a social game, the team are looking to become more competitive and hope to play against other teams such as the Cape Town based queer rugby team, Blight Rugby club. “We’d be keen to play against other Wits teams, just for the fun of it!” said Khan.

Anyone can join in the fun and players don’t necessarily need to be queer.

“We don’t discriminate against straight people. It’s mostly about having a good time and it’s also a great way to get fitter,” said Khan.

Khan said anyone who is interested can join the team on Saturday, even if it’s just to watch and support. Khan said Wham! has a Facebook page with information on practices and events.