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Ethiopian Israelis will be able to donate blood without restrictions

Decades-long ban preventing Jews from Ethiopia giving blood over HIV/AIDS fears to be lifted July 1

Police clash with Ethiopian Israelis taking part in a violent protest against what they say is police and government mistreatment, January 28, 1996. (Flash90)
Police clash with Ethiopian Israelis taking part in a violent protest against what they say is police and government mistreatment, January 28, 1996. (Flash90)

Ethiopian Israelis will be permitted to donate blood without restrictions.

The new Health Ministry rules will take effect on July 1, Haaretz reported Tuesday, citing the Magen David Adom ambulance service. Blood donations from Ethiopian-born Israelis have been banned since 1977.

The date of the new procedures was announced at the meeting Monday of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.

Blood donations now can only be refused from an Israeli who has spent more than a year in a country afflicted by a widespread disease, including HIV/AIDS. The ministry also changed the rules for blood donations from homosexuals and those older than 65.

Likud MK Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. (Government Press Office)
Likud MK Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. (Government Press Office)

Despite the lifting of the ban, Immigration Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise said “MDA’s decision to delay accepting these donations for another half year, even though there’s no medical justification for it, is a continuation of the discrimination and deprivation,” according to Haaretz.

The Ethiopia issue was taken up at the end of 2013 when Israeli lawmakers called for an examination of Magen David Adom blood donation policies after an Ethiopia-born Knesset member was rejected as a donor.

Lawmaker Pnina Tamano-Shata of the Yesh Atid party tried to donate during a special blood drive in December 2013 at the Knesset but was told she could not because she was Ethiopian. Tamano-Shata was told subsequently that she could donate, but the blood would be frozen and never used.

The issue first came to the attention of most of the Israeli public in 1996, after it was revealed that Magen David Adom had been secretly disposing blood donated by Ethiopian Jews over fears they carried HIV/AIDS. The news of the scandal led to violent clashes between the Israeli police and Ethiopian protesters charging that they were being treated as second-class citizens.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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