A group of LGBT organisations has requested that a panel of experts be set up within a month to decide on the validity of barring gay men from donating blood in South Africa.

Earlier this week, the Joint Working Group (JWG) – a collaboration of registered non-profit organisations, and their partners, providing services to LGBT people in South Africa – the Aids Law Project and stakeholders from SANBS met to address the exclusion of sexually active gay men from donating blood.

The JWG holds the view that the current national policy on blood transfusion needs to change to ensure that it is more inclusive and based on both international and South African scientific data, while still ensuring safe blood for all.

At the meeting, there was general consensus on a scientific approach to blood donation policy. In addition, it was decided that a panel of experts (epidemiologists, statisticians, attorneys) is to be convened within the period of a month. This panel will review available scientific evidence, on the basis of which more informed decisions regarding the exclusion of Men having Sex with Men can be made.

Should there be insufficient evidence; terms of reference should be developed for further research into areas of concern. All stakeholders (the JWG, SANBS and the Aids Law Project) will nominate potential experts to participate in the research. This process will be driven by the SANBS.

In a statement, the Joint Working Group welcomed the outcome of the dialogue, and the commitment by the South African National Blood Services towards addressing the exclusionary sections of the national blood policy. “The JWG remains committed to an outcome that ensures the safety of blood, for all,” said the organisation.

The Joint Working Group includes the following organisations: Behind the Mask; Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Center; Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW); Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA); Triangle Project; UNISA: Center for Applied Psychology; and OUT – LGBT Well-being.

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