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3 reasons to talk about blood transfusions this week

June 15, 2016

Blood transfusions, donors and blood-borne diseases have been prevalent in the news over the past week, once again bringing sharps safety to the forefront of people's minds.

People who are known to have been infected with HIV, hepatitis C or other infections from a needlestick injury, sexual contact or through drug abuse are not allowed to give blood, meaning those who self-administer injections or work in a healthcare environment need to be absolutely sure that they have not suffered a sharps injury before they sign up to donate.

So, aside from this, what other conversations have been taking place across the world's media over the past week?

1. World Blood Donor Day took place this week

June 14th saw World Blood Donor Day take place across the globe, with Amsterdam the host city for this year's event, for which the theme was 'Blood connects us all'.

The aim was to raise awareness of the importance of blood donation, particularly in underdeveloped countries.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), which is behind the annual international event, show that while 108 million blood donations are received by hospitals every year, almost half of these are from high-income countries, despite these locations being home to under 20 per cent of the people who need a transfusion.

World Blood Donor Day 2016 aimed to remind people that blood is what keeps everyone alive, regardless of their background, meaning that more people need to come forward as donors to make sure there is enough blood to go round in the event of an emergency, or in times of need.

Dr Ed Kelley, director of the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO, commented: "Voluntary blood donors come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common: they put others before themselves - people they don't even know. Each time they donate blood, they commit an act of selfless heroism."

2. UK blood donors can now receive text updates of their blood's journey

Blood donors in the UK will soon be able to find out the details of where their blood has been sent, via a new text messaging service.

The Independent reports that people who give blood will be able to sign up to receive information about the whereabouts of their donations, with a text being sent to their mobile phone to let them know when it has been dispatched to a patient in need, and which hospital they are at.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) hopes that this will encourage more people to donate blood in the future, as they will receive further assurance that they are doing a good deed and helping to save someone's life by finding out a few extra details about where their blood is going.

Mike Stredder, director of blood donation at NHSBT, explained: "While donors don't get to meet the people who have benefited from their blood, our texts to donors will remind them that hospitals, and patients, rely on their donations."

3. Should gay people be able to donate blood following the Orlando shootings?

Blood donation has also been in the news following the mass shooting at an Orlando gay club earlier this week, which resulted in the loss of 50 lives.

In the wake of the attack, thousands of people across the US have rushed to donate blood to help survivors, but gay men are annoyed that they are not able to give blood themselves, as guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration state that men who have had sex with men in the last 12 months are not allowed to donate blood, as they are potentially at risk of HIV.

This rule has angered many gay men, who believe that the laws banning them from donating blood do not fit well in a society that has no strict gun laws.

What's more, this story has also raised the issue that medical professionals and people who self-administer medication could also be at risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis C if they haven't complied with needle hygiene guidelines.

This has raised the question that if men at risk of sexually-transmitted HIV are not allowed to donate blood, then why are people who have potentially been in contact with contaminated needles? Even the smallest sharps injury or prick can lead to the transmission of infections, meaning that safe practices should be followed at all times to ensure the highest number of people possible are in a position where they can donate blood in times of need such as this.

Debates over whether or not gay and bisexual males should be able to donate blood can be expected to continue over the coming weeks.

 

Image: sudok1 via iStock

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