What is blood transfusion?
Blood is necessary for the survival of the human body. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to organs body and helps remove waste from cells. When too much blood is lost it can be life-threatening, as the body is not able to replace the blood as quickly as it is lost. That is why blood transfusions are done. This is a specific type of medical treatment that replaces the blood lost in one person with the blood of another. The donated blood is carefully packaged in a bag and given to the recipient through a tube injected into one of his or her veins. Blood transfusions can also be given to people with blood-related illnesses who need healthy blood cells.
Why should people donate safe blood?
By donating safe blood, you can save lives. Blood donation is an excellent way to give back to the community in an easy, safe and cost-free way. You do not have to pay anything to donate blood and it only takes about 30 minutes of your time.
What is ‘safe' blood?
‘Safe' blood is blood that causes the recipient no harm. Blood free of any infections that could at the time of donation is safe to give to someone else. Each unit of blood that is donated is tested for transmissible diseases, however there is a window period when HIV cannot be detected through testing. A person may not know that they are infected with HIV and may therefore think their blood is safe to donate. That is why persons who have taken certain lifestyle risks are asked not to donate blood.
Certain medications may also prevent you from being able to give blood. Questions about this and other risk factors for unsafe blood will be included in a confidential written questionnaire that will be given to you to fill out before you donate.
Who should not donate blood?
· People with sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV or syphilis, which can then be passed on to someone else through donated blood.
· People who take lifestyle risks that could lead to them contracting a transmissible infection, for example, someone who has had more than one sexual partner in the past six months or has had sexual contact with a person whose sexual history is unknown or uncertain.
· People who have ever used a needle to inject drugs into themselves.
· People who believe they need to have an HIV test.
Who should donate blood?
· Weigh 50kg or more
· Are between the ages of 16 and 65 years
· Are in good health
· Lead a sexually safe lifestyle
· Consider their blood safe for transfusion
What blood group is needed the most?
The blood type most in demand is Group O as it can be given to anyone in an emergency and the patient's body will accept it.
There are four different blood types - A, B, AB and O. These are then further categorised as being either negative or positive. This is simply a way of telling the different types apart. For example, you may be B+ and your colleague may be B-. You are both in Group B, however there are slight differences that exist between your blood types. This has nothing to do with HIV status. A person can be a B+ blood type but be HIV negative, and vice versa.
While Group O is most in demand, it is still important for people of A, B and AB blood to donate as their blood can be used in transfusions to patients with the same blood type, which helps to save stocks of Group O blood for use in emergency situations.
Is it safe to donate blood?
When you go to donate blood you will have to fill out a confidential questionnaire to determine whether it is safe for you to donate blood. You will also have a fingerprick test to check your iron levels, as if you suffer from an iron deficiency than donating blood may not be not safe for you.
You cannot get HIV/AIDS from donating blood. All lancets and needles used during the blood donation process are used only once and thereafter placed in special medical-waste containers, which are then incinerated. The staff who collect blood are well trained and strict protocols are at all times followed. There has never been an incident of a donor contracting HIV from donating blood.
You can donate blood regularly, every 56 days, without it having a harmful effect on your health.
For more information about donating blood and to find a SANBS clinic near you please call the SANBS toll free number on
0800 11 90 31.
For any GEMS member queries please phone the GEMS call centre on 0860 00 4367 or visit our website at www.gems.gov.za. GEMS will assist you in every way possible to ensure your family's health and wellbeing.