In the midst of the controversy around the GLA’s statements, the SA National Blood Services has confirmed that its policy on banning sexually active gay men from donating blood remains unchanged.
The organisation has also threatened to take legal action against gay men who allegedly donated blood in protest, at the behest of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLA). The GLA claimed that up to 300 of its members, including one with full blown AIDS, donated blood. This has been widely reported in hysterical tones by much of the media, and has even made news on international websites including BBC News.
Most knowledgeable commentators however believe that this incident is most likely a hoax or at the very least on a much smaller scale than stated. The GLA’s claims and legitimacy have been met with derision and outrage by GLBTI community organisations such as OUT, Triangle Project and Cape Town Pride.
The SANBS’s spokesperson Ianthe Exall told Mambaonline on Monday that although the GLA had given the blood service the names of eight people that allegedly donated blood last week Friday, the SANBS has not been able to find these names amongst its records of people that donated blood on that day. “We are still looking”, she added.
The SANBS itself has also been slammed for basing its policy on international research data which may not be applicable to the South African context.
In a statement by OUT, it said that it “will be pursuing reasoned discussions with the SANBS so as to explore ways to constructively address their current position on the exclusion. We do believe that the exclusion of MSM from giving blood reflects a discriminatory position. The focus should be on unsafe sexual practises regardless of the group in which such practises take place”.
Out added that, “if groups are used as a social indicator for risk of HIV transmission, why aren’t married women not engaged in extra-marital sex excluded, as it has been proven that they have highest risks of HIV infection? The SANBS’s present position stigmatises gay men and presents incorrect public information on HIV transmission”.