South African Blood Service to Stop Calculating Donors' Risk of HIV Infection Based on Race
December 7, 2004
The South African National Blood Service on Friday said that it would no longer use race as a risk factor for HIV infection in donated blood after the country's health minister said the policy "smacks of racism," London's Guardian reports. SANBS previously used a system where regular donors who are white or Indian are deemed Category 1 -- or at lowest risk for HIV or other diseases -- while black donors are classified as either Category 3 or Category 4 because HIV and hepatitis are thought to be "more widespread" among blacks, according to the Guardian. Robert Crookes, medical director of SANBS, said the system was the "most logical, medical, ethical and legally defensible" available (Carroll, Guardian, 12/4). However, it was unclear exactly how the agency classified the blood because donors were not asked to give their race when they donated, the SAPA/News24.com reports. The change in policy came in response to a case before South Africa's Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration filed by a SANBS nurse who was fired for objecting to policy, which she considered to be racial profiling. SANBS fired Poppie Bereng after she insisted that a clause be inserted in her contract saying that she did not have to be involved in drawing blood from black people because their blood usually is destroyed. CCMA demanded that Bereng be reinstated at SANBS, and the case prompted Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Thursday to denounce the policy of using race as a risk factor for the transfusions.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.