Donor FAQs


1. What blood group is needed the most?
Group O Rh negative blood can be transfused to anyone, so these donors are referred to as “universal donors”. Group O Rh negative patients on the other hand, can only receive group O Rh negative blood. Group O blood is the most versatile and adequate stocks of group O blood are vital. If for instance, group A blood is not in stock, group O blood will be used. However, all blood groups are required to ensure adequate stocks at all times.
2. Why should people donate blood?
The simplest reason is to help save the lives of patients in need of blood transfusions.  Just knowing that your one unit of blood can save up to three lives is a rewarding enough feeling.  Every unit of blood once tested and is deemed safe for transfusion is separated into, red blood cells, platelets and Plasma.
3. What are the types of donation?


  • Whole Blood - donating a unit of blood for a patient. This unit of blood can be processed into 3 components namely red cells, platelets and plasma. The components are used to save 3 lives. This process takes approximately 30min to donate.

  • Platelets - Platelets play a vital role in blood clotting and prevention of excess blood loss. The blood is processed through a cell separator, which retains the platelets and returns the other blood components to the donor’s system. This procedure enables people to donate platelets every month. Platelet donation is a simple process that takes about an hour and a half to complete.

  • Plasma - Plasma donation is a similar process to platelet donation, and takes about 90 minutes. The blood is processed through a cell separating machine that filters out the plasma and returns the red cells and other cellular components to the donor’s system. Plasma can be donated every 2 weeks where possible.

  • Other specialised donations include Autologous donation where you donate blood for yourself before a pre-planned surgery and designated donation where your family and friends donate blood for you. Please contact the call centre for more information as this is specialised donation.


4. Who are the safest donors?
SANBS has found that voluntary, non-remunerated (unpaid) donors who give blood regularly are the safest blood donors. Their primary motivation is to help other people and having the satisfaction of knowing they have helped to save someone’s life.. Regular donors are familiar with the danger of the window period and they know what risk behaviour entails. They have been through all SANBS’s education processes.
All donors who donate to save a patients life and are open and honest in going through the blood donation process are safe donors.
People can donate blood every 56 days for whole blood and 28 days for platelets. A regular donor is someone who has made three or more donations in a year.
5. Who receives blood?
Transfusions are given to:
    •    Women who suffer severe bleeding as a complication of pregnancy and delivery.
    •    Patients undergoing surgical operations
    •    Patients with cancer
    •    Patients with severe anaemia
    •    Accident victims
6. What tests are performed on the blood?
Blood is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B & C and Syphilis shows that the blood is negative for these diseases. SANBS is the first country in the world to have implemented NAT testing on such a large scale for individual testing of blood. This is a very sensitive test, which detects the presence of the HI-virus, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis in blood. However, there is still the danger of the window-period which no test in the world can detect.
7. What infections can be transmitted by blood?
    •    HIV, which leads to AIDS
    •    Hepatitis B
    •    Hepatitis C
    •    Syphilis
    •    Malaria, ZIKA virus etc  - There are no tests with the Blood Service for these infectious diseases so SANBS relies on the openness and honesty of donors to prevent transmission to patients.
8. Who should not give blood?
Among others reasons people who have or may recently have contracted a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV or syphilis, which can be passed on to a patient through their blood.
People whose lifestyle puts them at increased risk of contracting an infection that can be transmitted through their blood: for example, if they have had more than one sexual partner in the past six months, or if they have had sexual contact with someone whose sexual background is unknown to them.
9. Is all donated blood tested?
Yes. Every unit of blood collected goes through the same stringent testing. So, it does not matter if it’s your first donation or if you are a regular donor, your blood still gets tested every time after you’ve donated.
10. How safe is it to donate blood?
As a donor, you have to complete a Self Exclusion Questionnaire, with questions on your health and lifestyle. The questions are asked to ensure that it is safe for you to donate blood and that your blood is safe for a patient to receive. A finger prick test will also be done to check your iron levels. Your blood pressure will also be checked, to ensure you are fit to donate.
11. Can you get HIV from donating blood?
No, absolutely not. All needles and finger-prick lancets are sterile and used once only. After use, each lancet and needle is placed in a special medical-waste container and incinerated. Trained staff is employed to collect all blood donations and strict protocols are followed.
12. Who qualifies to become a blood donor?
If you are between the ages of 16 and 65, weigh more than 50kg and lead a low risk lifestyle, you can come to a clinic and register as a blood donor.
13. Does it really matter that it is not 56 days since I last gave blood?
By law you may only donate every 56 days. This is to ensure that you have had enough time to regenerate the red cells from your last donation.
14. How much blood is taken at one time?
For your own safety as a donor about 480 ml is collected.
15. Can I donate if I haven’t eaten?
By not eating before donating, your chances of having a reaction after donating is greatly increased. It would, therefore be unwise to take your blood unless you’ve had something to eat (a light snack) within the preceding 4 hours.
16. Why can’t I give blood if I weigh less than 50kg?
The amount of blood drawn is directly proportional to the your body mass. The donation of a unit of blood might have more serious effects (such as fainting) on a person weighing less than 50kg.