Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Executive Director Cindy Kelemi is saying their last option to challenge the government’s policy prohibiting gays from donating blood will be before the courts of law.
Speaking to The Telegraph on Monday Kelemi described the policy to prohibit homosexuals and sex workers to donate blood as discriminatory and encouraging stigma. ┬á
The Blood Transfusion Centre under the Ministry of Health argues that studies have shown that homosexuals and sex workers are at high risks of contracting HIV/AIDS hence the policy to ban them from donating blood.
BONELA Executive Director is of the view that it does not matter who the donor is saying “as far as BONELA is concerned, the Blood Transfusion Centre’s Position that blood donation from homosexuals and sex workers is not acceptable on the basis of sexual behavior is discriminatory.”
“We believe that there are quite a number of things contributing to risky behaviour which are different from one person to another; we expect that the blood transfusion centre take the necessary precautionary measures in terms of establishing that all blood is safe for transfusion regardless of where it is coming from. When we start to label certain people as being at risk of infections and therefore we cannot consider their blood for donation that is a clear discriminatory,” Kelemi said.
Kelemi condemned perceptions that homosexuals and sex workers encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“There is also this thing that the homosexuals and sex workers are the ones encouraging the spread of HIV/AIDS. This thing basically fuels the stigma. As BONELA we are going to continue to engage with the Blood transfusion Centre to show that the policy doesn’t even help to encourage people to donate blood. We understand as BONELA that the Blood transfusion Centre cannot meet the amount of blood that the centre requires and when the policy is in place to eliminate other potential donors,” she said.
Kelemi added that “We need a broader dialogue to understand what exactly means to get blood donations. We have to question whether it is necessary for the blood recipient to know who the blood donor was. For example I want to believe that even Christians at one point were helped with blood from Muslims or vice versa but we all know their beliefs are different. This is why we say it does not matter where the blood is coming from. We are currently engaging with the Ministry of Health on the matter and if they fail to work with us on this policy then the next available option will be engaging the courts of law to intervene.”
┬áThe coordinator of lesbians, gays and bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), Cain Youngman said the Ministry of Health’s policy is based on the studies that were conducted in the United State America (USA) and other developed countries.
“The homosexual communities in those countries have high prevalence of HIV/AIDS that we understand but we fail to understand where the Ministry of Health in Botswana is basing their arguments that homosexuals are at high risk. We are saying the policy should not be backed by studies from other countries. The last study that was done in Botswana indicated that about 9.2 percentages of HIV/AIDS prevalence from homosexuals and the percentage does not qualify for Botswana to ban homosexuals from donating blood according to World Health Organisation (WHO),” he said.