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South African gay
men barred from giving blood

South African gay
men barred from giving blood


Despite recent pro-gay legislative advances, South Africa has jumped on the international bandwagon and decided to bar gay men from donating blood because of a perceived higher risk of HIV infection.

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) announced on Thursday that it has banned blood donations from sexually active gay men due to their higher risk of HIV. The ban has provoked an angry response from gay activists.

"A man who has had sex with another man within the last five years, whether oral or anal sex, with or without a not permitted to donate blood and must please not do so," the SAPA news agency quoted SANBS medical director Robert Crookes as saying.

South Africa has the world's highest number of HIV cases with more than 5 million people infected.

A South African LGBT advocacy group said that blood donors should be screened according to whether they use condoms and not because of their sexuality. The group threatened to take Crookes to court over his comments, which it blasted as discriminatory. "I understand that the blood transfusion service needs some sort of social indicator to derive the safety of blood, but the use of gay in a blanket way indicates this is not fair," Dawie Nel, spokesman for the group, told SABC radio.

Crookes asserted that the blood service's position was based on international practice and research that showed sexually active gay men were more likely to be infected with HIV than their heterosexual counterparts, SAPA said.

Post-apartheid South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the only one to enshrine equal rights for gays and lesbians. South Africa's top court said in December it was unconstitutional to deny gay people the right to marry, putting it on track to become the first country in Africa to legalize same-sex marriages.

Activists plan to picket blood donor centers on Friday over the policy, SABC reported.

Nel said the decision to bar gay men from giving blood was not new but that the blood service had reiterated its position following renewed criticism from gay rights groups.

The United States also bars sexually active gay men from donating blood because of higher HIV prevalence rates among gay men. U.S. AIDS activists also say this policy is discriminatory. (Reuters, with additional reporting by

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