Cover Image
close this bookBlood Safety and AIDS: UNAIDS Point of View (UNAIDS, 1997, 8 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFacts and Figures
View the documentThe benefits of transfusions - and the risks attached
View the documentWhat are the problems in ensuring a “safe” blood supply?
View the documentSo how can we achieve a safe blood supply?
View the documentUNAIDS Best Practice Materials

Facts and Figures

· Eighty percent of the world's population live in developing countries, but developing countries use only 20% of the world's blood supply for transfusions.

· The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes AIDS is easily transmitted through blood transfusions. In fact, the chances that someone who has received a transfusion with HIV-infected blood will himself or herself become infected are estimated at over 90%.

· While millions of lives are saved each year through blood transfusions, in countries where a safe blood supply is not guaranteed, recipients of blood run an increased risk of infection with HIV.

· Other diseases - such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, Chagas disease and malaria - can also easily be transmitted through blood transfusions.

· Worldwide, up to 4 million blood donations a year are not tested for either HIV or hepatitis B. Very few donations are tested for hepatitis C.

· Blood transfusions will always carry certain risks, but HIV transmission through blood transfusions can virtually always be prevented. One can do this by setting up and maintaining a safe blood supply, and by using the blood appropriately.

· The difficulties hindering a safe blood supply include:

a lack of a national blood policy and plan, lack of an organized blood transfusion service, lack of safe donors, or the presence of unsafe donors; lack of blood screening; and the unnecessary or inappropriate use of blood. Blood screening means testing donated blood for the presence of disease-causing viruses, bacteria or other micro-organisms, or for the presence of antibodies produced against these agents. Shortages of funds, test kits and trained staff also hamper efforts to ensure a safe blood supply.

· A safe blood supply can be only achieved if three essential elements are in place:

- There must be a national blood transfusion service run on non-profit lines which is answerable to the ministry of health.

- There must be a policy of excluding all paid or professional donors, but at the same time encouraging voluntary (non-paid) donors to come back regularly. People are suitable as donors only if they are considered to have a low risk of infection.

- All donated blood must be screened for HIV, as well as for hepatitis B and syphilis (and hepatitis C, where possible). In addition, both doctors and patients must be aware that blood should be used only for necessary transfusions.

· In many countries, regulations on blood donations, screening and transfusions exist but are not adhered to. It is important that regulations are established and rigorously enforced.