Myths and Facts

| September 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

The community blood supply in the United States is safest it has ever bee. And giving blood is one of the safest activities around. Yet myths and falsehoods about blood safety persist. The American Red Cross wants you to know the facts.

You can get AIDS for donating blood.

The American Red Cross uses only new, one-time use needles to collect blood. You cannot get AIDS, hepatitis or any other infectious disease by donating blood to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross buys blood.

The Red Cross never pays anyone to donate blood. Payment creates a potential incentive for prospective donors to lie about their health histories. The Red Cross draws blood only from volunteer donors. And scientific studies prove that volunteer donors are the single greatest safeguard of the blood supply today.

If it weren’t for AIDS, blood transfusions would be totally safe.

Like most medical procedures, blood transfusions have associated risks. The benefits of receiving needed blood, however, far outweigh these risks. Physicians today do not prescribe blood or blood products unless the patient must have them. To ensure that the blood given to patients is the safest possible, the Red Cross exceeds FDA requirements for testing, and the tests in use today are the most sensitive available. However, even the most sensitive test do not detect every instance of illness. That is why the American Red Cross requires every donor to undergo six other safety steps before donating blood.

The AIDS tests are not good enough for blood donor screening

The tests to detect HIV were designed specifically to screen blood donors. And these tests have been regularly upgraded since they were introduced. Although the tests to detect HIV and other blood-borne diseases are extremely accurate, they cannot detect the presence of the virus in the “window period” of infection, the time before detectable antibodies or antigens are produced. That is why there is still a very slim chance of contracting HIV from blood which tests negative. Research continues to further reduce the very small risk.

Every year hundreds of people are infected by people donating during the “window period.”

While the presence of the AIDS virus cannot be detected during the “window period,” stringent screening procedures and improvements in test technology greatly reduce the number of prospective donors who could be in that phases. In the more then 10 years since March 1985, when the FDA first license a test to detect HIV antibodies in donated blood, the Centers for Disease Control as reported only 33 cases of AIDS caused by the transfusion of blood that tested negative for the AIDS virus. During this time, more then 216 million blood components were transfused in the United States.

If you know you will need blood, it’s best to have people you know donate for you.

Directed donations are no safer than voluntarily donated blood. And they may, in fact, be less safe. Scientific research has shown that directed donations may have a higher risk of infection that the community blood supply, probably because directed donors may feel pressured to donate and may lie about their health and risk behaviors. Volunteer blood donors are motivated only by altruism. When surgery is planned and there is at least a 20 percent possibility that the patient will need blood during surgery, the safest alternative is to donate your own blood in advance. This is known as an autogenic blood donation. Its use fullness is limited, however, because the vast majority of blood is used for emergencies or by people who are not healthy enough to give their own blood. A physician must decide if an individual qualifies.

You should have several pints of your own blood frozen and stored for your use in case of an emergency.

This is impractical for several reasons. First, it takes at least an hour and a half to “defrost” frozen blood, not counting the time required to deliver it to the site where you need it. That means that in an emergency, your own blood will not be immediately available to help you. Second, storing frozen blood is extremely costly. A final consideration is that thawed blood is only useable for 24 hours. Freezing and storing your own blood only makes sense for persons with extremely rare blood types. In a medical emergency, these individuals still must content with the defrost-and-deliver dilemma.

Because of AIDS and other diseases, the blood supply is not reliable.

The blood supply is safest it has ever been. Increasing strict donor screening procedures, effective donor education, stringent deferral criteria, and advances in testing technology combine to make today’s community blood supply safest ever. Also, physicians today use blood sparingly and only when medically necessary.

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