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, 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.”