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What blood group is needed the most?

Group O Rh negative blood can be transfused to anyone, so these donors are referred to as “universal donors”. Group O Rh negative patients on the other hand, can only receive group O Rh negative blood. Group O blood is the most versatile and adequate stocks of group O blood are vital. If for instance, group A blood is not in stock, group O blood will be used. However, all blood groups are required to ensure adequate stocks at all times.

Why should people donate blood?

The simplest reason is to help save the lives of patients in need of blood transfusions.  Just knowing that your one unit of blood can save up to three lives is a rewarding enough feeling.  Every unit of blood once tested and is deemed safe for transfusion is separated into, red blood cells, platelets and Plasma.

Does all donors’ blood get used to make components?

The more regularly you donate, the better the chance of full components of your donated unit getting used.

Why is this?

SANBS has found that its regular donors are its safest donors. Regular donors are familiar with the danger of the window period and they know what risk behaviour entails. They have been through all SANBS’s education processes.

So how does it work then?

If you are donating blood for the first time, your red blood cells won’t get used. Your plasma gets quarantined until your next donation. If all tests come back negative after your second donation, the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used.

This also applies if you haven’t donated blood for a while.

Once you have made three donations and your blood still tests negative for sexually transmissible diseases, all the components of your blood gets used. You have to donate blood regularly!

What is regular donation?

People can donate blood every 56 days. A regular donor is someone who has made three or more donations in a year.

Who receives blood?

Transfusions are given to:

  • Patients undergoing surgical operations
  • Patients with cancer or leukaemia
  • Children with severe anaemia
  • Accident victims
  • Women; to treat haemorrhage as a complication of pregnancy

What is safe blood?

Blood is deemed safe once the tests for HIV, Hepatitis B & C and Syphilis shows that it is clear.

What infections can be transmitted by blood?

  • HIV, which leads to AIDS
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Syphilis

Who should not give blood?

People who have or may recently have contracted a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV or syphilis, which can be passed on to a patient through their blood.

People whose lifestyle puts them at increased risk of contracting an infection that can be transmitted through their blood: for example, if they have had more than one sexual partner in the past three months, or if they have had sexual contact with someone whose sexual background is unknown to them.


Who are the safest donors?

Voluntary, non-remunerated (unpaid) donors who give blood regularly are the safest blood donors. Their primary motivation is to help other people and having the satisfaction of knowing they have helped to save someone’s life.

What tests does SANBS use?

Since the inception of its new risk model in October 2005, SANBS is conducting Nucleic acid Amplification Technology (NAT) tests on every unit of blood that is donated. This is a very sensitive test, which detects the presence of the HI-virus, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis in blood. However, there is still the danger of the window-period which no test in the world can detect.

SANBS is the first country in the world to have implemented NAT testing on such a large scale for individual testing of blood.

Do you test blood at random?


Every unit of blood collected goes through the same stringent testing. So, it does not matter if it’s your first donation or if you are a regular donor, your blood still gets tested every time after you’ve donated.

How safe is it to donate blood?

As a donor, you have to complete a Donor Questionnaire, with questions on your health and lifestyle. The questions are asked to ensure that it is safe for you to donate blood and that your blood is safe for a patient to receive.

A finger prick test will also be done to check your iron levels. Your blood pressure will also be checked, to ensure you are fit to donate.

Can you get HIV from donating blood?

No, absolutely not. All needles and finger-prick lancets are sterile and used once only. After use, each lancet and needle is placed in a special medical-waste container and incinerated.

Trained staff is employed to collect all blood donations and strict protocols are followed.  Since the introduction of NAT testing we have no reported cases of HIV transmission.

Some patients do have the option of using their own blood. This is called Autologous Donation and must be discussed with their doctor 4-5 weeks before the scheduled surgery. Prior to the operation blood is collected from the patient, tested and held in special storage. It is then available for transfusion during or following the surgery, should the need arise.

Who qualifies to become a blood donor?

If you are between the ages of 16 and 75, weigh more than 50kg and lead a sexually safe lifestyle, you can come to a clinic and register as a blood donor.

Does it really matter that it is not 56 days since I last gave blood?

By law you may only donate every 56 days. This is to ensure that you have had enough time to regenerate the red cells from your last donation.

How much blood is taken at one time?

About 480 ml, by law this is all one is allowed to donate

Can I donate if I haven’t eaten?

By not eating before donating, your chances of having a reaction after donating are greatly increased. It would, therefore be unwise to take your blood unless you’ve had something to eat (a light snack) within the preceding 4 hours.

Why can’t I give blood if I weigh less than 50kg?

The volume of blood drawn is directly proportional to the body mass. Therefore, a small person will have less blood volume than a large person. The donation of 480 ml therefore means a far larger percentage of total blood volume to a small person.


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