South Africa has followed many other countries in banning sexually active gay men from donating blood

“A man who has had sex with another man within the last five years, whether oral or anal sex, with or without a condom … is not permitted to donate blood and must please not do so,” Dr. Robert Crookes, head of the national blood service said today.

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

The country’s leading gay rights group, South African Gay and Lesbian Rights Advocacy Group, argued that potential donors should be screened according to whether they have had unprotected sex, not on the basis of their sexuality.

“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, a spokesman for the group, told SABC radio.

Dr Crookes argues that the service’s position is no different to that practised in other developed countries such as Britain, where gay men are barred from donating blood. He claims this is because international research shows that sexually active gay men are more likely to be infected with HIV than their straight counterparts.