A number of Gay and Lesbian groups have slammed a statement this week by the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), and its head, Dr Robert Crookes, that it would not accept sexually active gay blood donors.

The most vocal among the group has been the discredited fringe Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLA), which called on gay men to picket the SANBS and to flood the organisation’s offices demanding to be allowed to donate blood.

OUT’s Dawie Nel told Radio 702 that while he does not support the GLA’s actions, he described the Blood Service’s statement as “blatantly homophobic”. He also told SABC radio that while understanding “that the blood transfusion service needs some sort of social indicator to derive the safety of blood… the use of gay in a blanket way indicates this is not fair.”

Cape Town’s Triangle Project has joined fray, also accusing the SANBS and Crookes of homophobia and of “pathologising” gay men.

Dr Glenn de Swardt, manager of the Health Services and Research Triangle Project said that “If he (Crookes), intends rejecting blood from gay men who have engaged in anal sex he should do likewise with blood from heterosexual donors who have practiced anal sex. Likewise, blood should not be accepted from any donor, irrespective of their sexual orientation, who has engaged in fellatio during the preceding five years”.

“HIV and Aids infects and affects people, irrespective of their age, race, gender or sexual orientation. We contend that Dr Crookes’ statement is prejudiced and homophobic and contributes further to the stigmatisation and marginalisation of the gay community,” he added.

The furore has made local and international headlines and appears to have split public opinion. According to a poll on popular Radio Station 5FM’s website, 65% of people who took part agreed they gay men shouldn’t be allowed to donate blood, while only 35% said that the ban was discriminatory and wrong.

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