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South Africa Bans Blood From Gay Men; Gay Groups Protest

South Africa's National Blood Service is looking into claims by a gay rights group that some of its members donated blood, in violation of a ban on blood donations from sexually active homosexual men. The ban has drawn widespread criticism.

The South African National Blood Service introduced the ban on Thursday. Rights activists criticized the decision, arguing it is discriminatory and contravenes the South African constitution.

The National Blood Service says it is looking into claims by one group, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, that it encouraged its members to donate blood in violation of the ban.

National Blood Service Spokesman Ianthe Exall says, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance told the blood service that 120 people had lied on their consent forms and donated blood in violation of the ban, including one person with AIDS.

"So, this is what we were told yesterday, by the GLA," Exall said. "It is a legal document, and, at this stage, because this has happened only just yesterday, our medical directorate will obviously be looking at the matter in hand, and discussing it with various stakeholders here, also including, probably, I should imagine, our legal side."

Other gay rights organizations have criticized the members of GLA for donating blood, saying such a move is counterproductive. The GLA is a small group, and other gay rights groups have distanced themselves from it.

Dawie Nel, director of the South African Gay and Lesbian Rights Advocacy Group, says his organization is considering legal action against the National Blood Service.

"Their present position is blatantly discriminatory and would be against section 9.3 of the South African constitution," said Nel. "We would request our members, and gay and lesbian people at large, to wait for legal action, and to turn the position around from the blood transfusion service through the courts and legal action we are planning to take."

In a bid to avoid a court battle, the South African National Blood Service says it is considering changing the conditions of the ban, but it has not said how.