What Should I Know?

Safety & Testing


The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) issues over one million blood components annually.


Blood donor recruitment in South Africa is based on a World Health Organisation endorsed programme, which specifies the selection of voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors.


Low-risk blood donors are identified as volunteer blood donors who donate blood solely to help those in dire need of blood. Securing and maintaining a safe blood supply in a country with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world is a constant challenge to the SANBS.


The HIV/Aids pandemic in South Africa has focused particular attention on the importance of preventing transfusion-transmitted infection. In the past, strategies to promote blood safety tended to focus primarily on screening blood for transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs). However, while systematic screening is essential, it is insufficient in itself to ensure the safety of the blood supply.


SANBS’ strategy for blood safety emphasises on an integrated three-fold approach. Effective quality assurance forms an essential part of this approach.


  1. The collection of blood only from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors from low-risk blood donors and the use of stringent donor selection procedures.
  2. The screening of all donated blood for transfusion-transmissible infections, including HIV, hepatitis viruses, syphilis and other infectious agents, and blood grouping, compatibility testing and processing of blood.
  3. A reduction in unnecessary transfusions through the appropriate clinical use of blood. These include the use of intravenous replacement fluids and other simple alternatives to transfusion.


Recruiting voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors


SANBS employs various educational strategies to inform members of the public and regular blood donors of issues pertaining supply of sufficient, safe blood. The message of safe blood is disseminated through local and national media or conducting educational talks.


Both potential blood donors and regular blood donors are required to complete a self-exclusion questionnaire each time they wish to donate blood. They also need to undergo a “mini-medical” prior to donating blood, where trained staff check their haemoglobin level and blood pressure and ensure that the donor is healthy and not at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.


If the potential donor is unable to donate blood for a health or medical reason, they are deferred for a period of time. People who participate in sexual behaviour which places them at increased risk (such as having casual sex), are advised not to donate blood and will not be accepted as blood donors.


The commitment, honesty and responsibility of regular blood donors ensure the safety of blood supply. SANBS encourages donors to give blood for purely altruistic reasons - solely for the sake of helping others.


Never donate blood to have a "Free HIV test"


Some people still live under the misconception that they can get a free HIV test if they donate blood at one of the blood donation clinics. This misconception poses a risk to patients and is a constant challenge to SANBS. The company is committed to providing sufficient, safe blood to patients who need blood transfusion as part of their medical treatment.