16 August 2004

Discriminatory stance

It has taken a lot for me sit down and write this e-mail. I'm not sure that this channel of grievance is appropriate, but it was suggested to me by one of my lecturers.

Last week I went to donate blood. It would have been my eighth time donating, the last time being two years ago.

While completing the required information form, I came across one question that caused at least three minutes of internal debate on whether or not I should answer it: "Male Donors: Have you had sexual intercourse with another male in the last five years?"

I am a gay male to close friends; to others my true identity is still hidden. I answered "Yes" to this question and continued with the normal procedures of donating, until I was asked by one of the workers why I had answered "yes" to this particular question.

Once I revealed that I was gay, I was informed that I would not be allowed to donate blood according to "World Health Organisation regulations".

I was then given an explanation that suggested that homosexuals were primarily not involved in monogamous relationships, thus had a high risk of being HIV positive!

As if heterosexuals could not have HIV! I subsequently left.

On Tuesday this week I approached one of my lecturers and told her of my recent experience. She confirmed my thoughts and suggested an e-mail to the Monday Paper.

Discrimination seems rife in the "new" South Africa. To add salt to the wound, it happened in my place of learning and security, at the UCT Sports Centre on the upper campus.

Concerned Student
(Name supplied but withheld for publication)

Ottoline Clapham, organisational health manager, replies:

The usual practice is that The Blood Bank requests permission from the institution/company to use their venue to park their caravan or equipment and then invites volunteers to donate. They are not contracted to the venue provider. I have always understood that it has been standard practice in South Africa and worldwide, for many years, not to accept blood from a sexually active gay, a heterosexual who has recently changed partners, people who currently have hepatitis B or C, syphilis, malaria or have had any other risk, even, for example, a needlestick injury. If I may, could I suggest that the writer contacts a support group such as the UCT HIV/AIDS Unit or Aids Training and Information Centre (Atic), who can provide useful information and guidance?

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