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The reason why blood and donor screening is important

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(Image Source: Medindia) 

Recently we’ve had a few queries about why certain groups of people in society are excluded from donating blood. They key reason for why only particular types of people can donate comes down to:

1. the health and safety of the donor

2. the safety of the blood that is being supplied to a blood transfusion patient.

Australia has one of the most safest blood supplies in the world, which is essential when your donation is helping a person that is already ill.

When you give blood, you’re tested for your ABO (blood type), Rh group (positive or negative) and red cell antibodies.

Using seven different types of tests, you are also tested for five transfusion- transmissible infectious diseases:

  1. HIV/AIDS
  2. hepatitis B
  3. hepatitis C
  4. human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)
  5. syphilis.

These tests specifically check for the surface antigen of hepatitis B and the antibodies for HIV-1, HIV-2, hepatitis C and HTLV types I and II.

They also test for the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of HIV-1, hepatitis B and hepatitis C using nucleic acid testing (NAT). RNA is like the genetic material of diseases.

By testing a potential donor’s blood for RNA using this type of testing, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service is able to increase the safety of the blood supply by significantly reducing the ‘window period’ between when a disease is contracted and when it can be detected. In comparison, many other tests only detect the antibodies of the disease, something that usually takes a long time to develop in the body.

Although NAT testing reduces the ‘window period’, people who fall under certain categories such as have gone overseas to certain destinations, recently got a tattoo, conducted in any male to male sexual activity and has ever injected a drug not prescribed by a medical professional are unable to donate. This is purely avoid the risk of potentially passing on a transfusion- transmissible infectious disease, as the test only reduces the window period not eliminates it.

Even though this means that not every Australian is able to contribute to the increasing need for blood donations, it’s better to be proactive than reactive, especially when blood donations are used to save lives.

So what do we suggest to people who would like to help blood donations but are unable to donate?

Getting the word out there about donating blood is a fantastic start. Try informing and encouraging friends and family members about why they should donate blood and support them through the process.

It’s amazing what a little encouragement can do.

For more information about who can donate and why, visit the Australian Red Cross Blood Donation’s FAQ’s: http://www.donateblood.com.au/faq

or simply take the eligibility quiz: http://www.donateblood.com.au/who-can-give/am-i-eligible

Source:

Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Ensuring Blood Safety, n.d, http://www.donateblood.com.au/about-blood/ensuring-safety

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