Pretoria based LGBT activist group, OUT, has rejected the South African National Blood Services’ (SANBS) position that gay men who are celibate for six months will be able to donate blood.

The change to the previous outright ban on all men that have sex with men from donating blood will come into effect on November 1.

According to Dawie Nel, director of OUT, the much hyped easing of the blood donation regulations is far from acceptable. Nel says that the SANBS’ new position has been taken unilaterally and goes against an earlier agreement that OUT reached with the SANBS in February.

“We agreed to appoint a panel of experts to look at the exclusion questions and look at a new inclusive policy based on local scientific data,” says Nel.

Depending on the findings and available data, the stakeholders were to then look at the possibility of conducting a national study on HIV prevalence on men that have sex with men.

According to OUT, the SANBS’ announcement was unexpected: “They just came up with this new position without involving all stakeholders and looking at new data”, says Nel.

Nel also believes that the new policy remains discriminatory, as it is based on data from overseas where the HIV epidemic remains prominent in homosexual communities, while it is largely a heterosexual disease in South Africa.

“The focus of exclusion must be on risky sexual practices regardless of sexually orientation”, he says.

OUT has forwarded a letter outlining these concerns to SANBS but has not yet received a response.

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