Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Cape Town - Sthembiso Bhengu could not believe her ears when her friend was turned away from donating blood because he was gay.
Bhengu, 19, and her friend – a 20-year-old homosexual man from Cape Town – were left flabbergasted at a blood donation clinic on a visit to Joburg recently and took to Twitter to vent their anger.
According to the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, the nurse at the clinic told him not to bother donating blood “because he is gay”.
According to Marika Champion of the Western Province Blood Transfusion Services (WPBTS), the current policy does not allow actively gay males to donate.
“The national policy deferral period is six months,” said Champion.
WPBTS maintains these deferrals are based on preventative measures to minimise potential HIV and/or hepatitis transmissions.
Both Bhengu and her friend are now boycotting blood donation until the laws are changed.
After the Twitter posts were made, other voices joined the discussion.
Mfana Dlaba was turned away from a blood donation station at the University of Johannesburg late last year.
“I was told that they wouldn’t take my blood if I had gay sex in the year preceding the donation date,” he said.
Editor of GayLife blog, known by his Twitter handle @GayLifeZA, agrees with the general law of imposing restrictions on anyone who has had sex with a stranger in the last six months, due to the risks involved. “However, the question about men having sex with men in the last six months does not specify if you had sex with a stranger, or a long-term partner.
“This means that a straight person can have unprotected sex (vaginal or anal) with someone they know a day before donating blood, while a gay man who had sex (anal or oral) with his husband of five years, using a condom, cannot donate for six months after having sex,” he said.
The SA National Blood Service (SANBS) believes the incidents are likely due to misinterpretation of the application forms.
“There is nowhere on the form that asks if the applicant is homosexual,” said Phoki Sesoro of the SANBS.
The SANBS encourages anyone who has a complaint to phone their toll free number 0800 119 031.