It has emerged that gay men continue to be excluded from donating blood in South Africa, even though the SA National Blood Service (SANBS) has been forced to alter its exclusions on the basis of colour by the government.
The ban applies specifically to sexually active gay men. According to SANBS spokesperson Ianthe Exall, “A man who has had sex with another man within the last five years, whether oral or anal sex, with or without a condom or other form of protection, is not permitted to donate blood and must please not do so.”
She said that this was international practice as studies have shown that men who have sex with men have an increased risk of HIV infection and blood-related diseases even though the majority of HIV infections in South Africa are among heterosexuals.
“Even though the blood services tests every blood donation for certain infectious diseases, no test available can detect every infectious blood donation,” she added. She also called on gay men to ignore requests by SANBS to donate blood.
In 2004, SANBS came under fire from the government and the health department after it was revealed that blood from black donors was often discarded. After negotiations with the government, SANBS agreed that race would no longer be used to determine the level of risk in donated blood.