On the 14th of June World Blood donor day was celebrated throughout the world under the slogan; “Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often.” Some of the objectives for this years’ celebrations included to celebrate and thank individuals who donate blood and encourage more people to become new donors and to encourage people in good health to donate blood regularly, as often as is safe and possible.
Blood donation saves lives. One unit of blood donated can save up to 3 lives. The National Blood services, established by the Ministry of Health is responsible for the provision of safe, adequate and accessible supply of blood and blood products in Botswana. They have been however undergoing a serious shortage of supply of blood nationwide, mainly as a result of a decrease in blood donors.
In Botswana anyone from 16 to 65 years can voluntarily donate blood. This is usually done free of charge and there is no monetary renumeration for donating. Blood donors should meet certain criteria before being able to donate. At the time of donation, donors must be in good health with no medical illnesses at the time. You cannot donate if you have a flu, stomach bug, cold sore or any illness. Donors must have a minimum weight of 50kg. individuals who have recently had any tattoos or piercings are required to wait at 6 months before they can donate.
Prior to donating, individuals’ level of haemoglobin is tested. Those with haemoglobin that is a below a certain threshold are not allowed to donate. People who have recently travelled to areas where they are high number of cases due to mosquito borne infections are also not allowed to donate. Those with high risk behaviour such as high risk sexual activity and intravenous drug users should not donate blood.
The donated blood undergoes several tests to ensure that it is safe to be given to donors. Some of the blood tests done include tests for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis. This is to ensure that the blood is safe to be used and there are no infections that are transmitted to recipients. Modern tests are so accurate that transmission of infections via donated blood is now a thing of the past.
Donating blood is relatively safe with no complications. Donors are advised to not engage in any strenuous physical activity and to rehydrate after donating. In addition to saving lives they are some other proposed benefits of donating blood. Blood donors get a free health screening prior to donating. There is also evidence that people who donate blood tend to live happier and longer lives. It also provides as sense of belonging and can improve mental well-being. They are benefits for both the donor and the recipients so lets all; “give blood”.