Safe blood starts with me
South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is responsible for collection of over a million units of safe blood and blood products annually. In order to achieve this mammoth task, SANBS staff is responsible for the recruitment and retention of regular, safe blood donors, who are essentially the lifeblood of our organisation.
Strict procedures are in place to ensure that donors act responsibly when pledging their support by donating blood, and that they are NOT giving blood to get a free AIDS test, but rather for the sole purpose of helping to save a life.
The commitment of our blood donors ensures the safety of the blood supply. SANBS attempts to encourage donors to give blood for purely altruistic reasons. People who participate in unsafe lifestyle behaviour (such as having casual sex, male-to-male sex, or taking intravenous drugs, etc) are advised not to donate blood.
Blood donated by a volunteer donor is treated with utmost respect, as each unit of safe blood donated is invaluable to patients who are in dire need of this precious resource. Each unit is subjected to strict and rigorous testing and processing procedures.
Once blood groups are verified, testing for various infectious diseases (e.g. HIV/Aids, syphilis and hepatitis) is conducted.
However, the HI-virus is undetectable for a period of approximately two weeks (or longer), known as the window period.
Low-risk blood donors
If the source of donated blood is safe, the final product is likely to be safe. Voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors from low-risk populations who give blood regularly are the foundation of a safe and adequate blood supply.
A system of voluntary, regular, non-remunerated donation also enables more cost-effective use to be made by reducing the volume of donated blood that has to be destroyed because of evidence of infectious disease markers.
Many countries have introduced legislation that allows blood donation only by voluntary non-remunerated donors. This is only achieved through the establishment of an effective programme of blood donor recruitment and retention.
The identification of donor populations at low risk for transfusion-transmissible infections, and the monitoring of transfusion-transmissible infections in both the general population and the donor population are also key elements of the strategy for blood safety.
SANBS encourages South Africans to commit themselves to maintaining a safe blood supply for the country. Blood is essential in the treatment of many serious illnesses and it is import that South Africa has sufficient blood available for all patients. Blood and blood products are used for open-heart surgery, burn victims, newborn babies and in the treatment of diseases such as leukaemia and cancer.
Never donate blood to have a "free HIV test"!
Some South Africans still live under the misconception that they can get a free HIV test if they donate blood. This belief poses a risk to patients and is a constant challenge to SANBS, which is committed to the provision of sufficient, safe blood to patients who need a blood transfusion as part of their medical treatment.
The costs of HIV tests may be one of the factors that influence people’s decision to approach a blood donation clinic in order to get a “free” test.
In order to protect the patient, blood is tested for various diseases that may be transmitted through blood transfusion. Each unit of donated blood is subjected to strict and rigorous testing and processing procedures.
Once blood groups are verified, tests for various infectious diseases are conducted (such as HIV/Aids, hepatitis B and hepatitis C). The result of the HIV test is not disclosed to the donor.
Did you know?
There are four major blood groups: O, A, B and AB.
Group O is the most common blood and is always in demand. The total percentage of Group O in SA is 46%.
Your body replaces liquid donated within 24 hours through fluid intake.
Every time your heart beats, 20% of your heart’s output goes directly to your brain, carrying oxygen vital for survival. Between 40 and 45% of your blood is made up of red blood cells that carry this oxygen.
The remaining 55 to 60% is plasma, a small proportion of white blood cells (which defend your body), clotting factors and platelets.
If every capillary, vein and artery in your body were placed end to end, they would cover a distance of 150 000 kilometers.
The average volume of blood in an adult body is 4 to 5 litres, or about 8% of the body weight.
The window period
The HI virus is undetectable in the blood for a period of time after infection (which, depending on the individual could be about four weeks to three months or even longer). This period is known as the window period. Therefore, donating blood purely to determine one’s HIV status places the recipient at risk of infection.
Pre-counselling and post-counseling is also vital to someone who suspects that they may be infected with the HIV. HIV tests should therefore be done by a doctor, health clinics or designated HIV testing Centres.
People who participate in sexual behaviour that places them at increased risk (such as having casual sex, or men who have sex with men) are advised to refrain from donating blood. The commitment of our blood donors ensures the safety of our blood supply. SANBS encourages donors to give blood for purely altruistic reasons.