Prostitutes, Gays Excluded From Blood Donation Efforts

Blood donation
Blood donation

FRANCISTOWN: The exclusion of sex workers, gays and lesbians from donating blood could be one of the main reasons Botswana cannot reach its annual national blood collection target of 40,000 units.

This was said during a stakeholder seminar where officials from the National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS) stated that gays, lesbians and sex workers pose threats toward blood safety due to their perceived sex lifestyles.

In short the NBTS does not collect blood from these minority groups.

Sharing their views at the poorly attended seminar, stakeholders indicated that discriminating against gays, lesbians and sex workers should be reviewed if the country is to reach its national blood collection target.


Statistics further indicated that in the northern region in 2013, only 6,765 units were collected while in 2014 the organisation managed to collect 6,546 units, way below the targeted 25,000 units of blood for both years.

This goes to show that lack of blood to save lives still remains a crisis in the country.

According to stakeholders, this should not be a crisis if NBTS were to collect blood without looking at the lifestyles of people.  Instead they should rather prioritise more on how safe the blood is through screening for infection.

Nozipho Mlobeli, section manager occupational health at Tati Nickel Mining, questioned how they would know that someone is a homosexual and that they are sex workers since it is not written on their faces.

She added that rapid tests should be put in place before sending the blood at the laboratory just like it is done for HIV/AIDS instead of dismissing people based on their lifestyles.

“The whole system is just not fair,” said Mlobeli

Northern regional principal education officer (guidance and counseling), Kelebeletse Mokobela echoed Mlobeli’s words saying that if NBTS is to reach its target the blood donation criteria needs to be reviewed.

Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital (NRH) superintendent Dr Malaki Tashipayagae indicated that generally sex is a dangerous game.  He added: “If we do sideline sex workers, gays and lesbian, how many partners do those we think are eligible have slept with? Surely something needs to be done if we are to change the situation.  This strict criteria closes many more people with clean blood outside.

For her part, NTBS regional manager Mogie Mosigi said that their priority is to save lives, which is why they do not collect blood from those who are believed to be vulnerable as a result of engaging in activities that may contaminate their blood.

She said the strict criterion is also implemented to minimise the rate of discarded blood.

She further said that in an effort to help reach the annual blood target required by the country the NBTS intends to take advantage of the upcoming Botswana games that will be held in Francistown in December.

“We are in the process of coming up with a programme, which we will use to recruit donors at the games,” Mosigi said. The seminar was organised by NBTS.

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