June is Blood Donor Month

2015-06-18 06:00

THE South African National Blood Service (SANBS) celebrates the dedication of its blood donors this month and reminds the public that, as our population grows and access to health care improves, the demand for blood supplies to keep people alive in medical emergencies is constantly increasing.

At the start of Blood Donor Month, SANBS COO Ravi Reddy highlighted the challenge.

“Our target for 2015 is 815 509 units of blood. We will only achieve this if many of our current donors are able to increase the number of donations they make and if the public come forward to replace donors who have given generously over the years, but who can no longer do so.”

South Africa is one of only 62 countries where the entire blood supply is donated free by volunteers.

On 14 June every year, the country joins with others across the globe to mark World Blood Donor Day and expands this event into a month-long campaign to highlight the critical importance of blood donation.

“No health system can do its job without a dependable supply of safe blood,” said Reddy.

“It is nothing short of a miracle that this vital aspect of health care is in the hands of volunteers and that they never fail us.

“Many of us do not appreciate the sheer range of situations in which blood plays a life-or-death role. These include everyday occurrences such as child birth and non-emergency surgery, as well as rare blood diseases, cancer treatment and major trauma. Any one of us could find that we owe our life to the generosity of a stranger who gives the gift of blood,” explained Reddy.

Blood donors must be free of blood-borne pathogens, such as HIV and hepatitis B, to protect patients from infection. The size of the HIV epidemic in South Africa raised doubts some years ago that SANBS would be able to maintain infection-free blood supplies and, at the same time, keep pace with the demand for blood.

“We are proud to say that South Africa has met this challenge. We have diversified our blood donor base and we do not distinguish on the grounds of race, sexual orientation or place of residence.

“Through better communication with prospective donors and by embracing ultra-sensitive testing technology to detect HIV infection, we have had not a single reported case of transfusion-acquired HIV in the past nine years,” he said. - Supplied

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