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The health ministry announced on Wednesday that blood donations would be accepted from anyone born in Israel, including Israeli-born Ethiopians.

Until now, blood donated by Ethiopians was discarded due to concern for disease in light of the alarming incidence of AIDS and HIV in Ethiopia.

The health ministry announced its decision during a meeting between Health Minister Yaacov Ben Izri (Pensioners) and an organization advocating the rights of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

The chairman of Magen David Adom emergency medical service, Professor Ayelet Shenar, said Wednesday that the regulations regarding blood donations have been "revitalized" at recent MDA training sessions for blood collectors. She also mentioned changes that have been made to the form that a donor must fill out prior to making a donation. According to Shenar, from now on, donor eligibility criteria will be listed plainly on the form.

Ben Izri also pledged at the meeting to discuss other health concerns facing the Ethiopian community with Ethiopian experts and health workers as well as Ethiopian rights organizations.

"I am well aware of the distress stemming from many causes, not only the discarded blood donations," Ben Izri said at the meeting. "I have no doubt that there is room for reform in the general policy being utilized in regard to the Ethiopian community in Israel. As a minister, I am troubled by the negative and erroneous stigma with which Israel's Ethiopian Jews have been labeled, as a result of publications taken out of proportion and present a reality which does not reflect the truth," he said.

Gadi Yavarkan, the chairman of the Ethiopian rights advocacy group, said in response that the health ministry's decision is an "achievement for the State of Israel, and for us, the younger generation, who want to integrate into Israeli society, and donate our blood to save a Jewish soul."

"The health minister has expressed his sorrow over the injustices suffered by immigrants to this country over the years," he added.

Last November, young Ethiopian activists staged a demonstration across from the Prime Minister's Office protesting the policy that dictated the disposal of Ethiopian blood donations. Eleven protesters and four police officers were injured during the demonstration.