The full-out ban on gay men donating blood in South Africa has ended in a move that is shifting guidelines to focus more on frequency of sexual partners than sexual orientation.
The South African National Blood Service has just announced new rules that allow gay men in committed monogamous relationships to give blood, reports Gay Star News. The new rule change means that there are two cohorts of gay men who are now allowed to give blood: those in committed monogamous relationships and those who have not had sex in six months. The same restrictions now exist for heterosexuals as well.
The rules now exclude people based upon frequency of sexual activity and number of sexual partners as opposed to their sexual orientation outright. The change is seen as a natural shift, as most people living with HIV in South Africa are heterosexual.
In an interview shortly after the announcement, SANBS Communications Manager Vanessa Raju clarified the change:
“This policy would apply to me, for example, who’s just started dating someone new. But people who are in monogamous male same-sex relationships can now donate. It took us a while because we didn’t have local facts that warranted changing our policy, although we knew South Africa was different from other countries in terms of risk of HIV. The policy wasn’t meant to be discriminatory, but it was seen as such.”
For now, the change is seen as a win. The perceived homophobia of the ban has been neutralized and will appease some LGBT activists, though we can imagine that others may have a problem with the idea that those who have sex with multiple partners are not as healthy as others.
Still, it’s a definite step forward and we certainly hope that the U.S. is the next stop in the “reimagining” of this ban.