Stop Paid Blood Donation, Global Conference Pleads

BEIJING -- Legislation is required to tighten control on blood donation and ensure a safer supply, a global conference of blood experts agreed in Beijing today. All blood must be from voluntary, unpaid donors and the support and legal commitment of health authorities will be sought worldwide, delegates from 50 countries agreed.

HIV, hepatitis and other transfusion-transmitted infections can be eliminated or greatly reduced through safety strategies based on collecting unpaid blood from volunteers in low-risk sections of the population. Much progress has been made in recent years, the 9th International Colloquium on the Recruitment of Voluntary, Non-Remunerated Blood Donors organized by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and co- sponsored by the World Health Organization, heard. But much more remains to be done. An estimated 81 million units of clean blood are donated annually

worldwide but less than 40 per cent are collected in the developing world where 82 percent of the planet's population lives.

As the conference ended today, Peter Carolan, the International Federation's senior officer for blood commented, ''Absolute guarantees on blood supplies can never be given. There will always be new infections for which at that moment there is no test. But we can, and must, make blood as safe as is humanly possible. A great part of that lies in acquiring voluntary, unpaid blood from low-risk groups. When you have such a donor base, with a reliable medical history, you have come a long way towards the goal. Blood

provided through the back door for gain brings incalculable risk of infection. The blood trade must be eradicated.''

The conference attendees had been told by China's Vice-Minister of Health, Zhu Qingshen, that the Chinese authorities would continue to crack down on illicit

blood. Some 88 percent of Chinese donors were unpaid volunteers in 2002. The conference also called for the development of plans to manage blood supplies during unexpected events. Unprecedented pressures were placed on blood services by SARS, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States, Bali in October 2002, and Madrid in 2004. Supplies were maintained but the lessons learnt should be shared, the conference warned.

Concern was also expressed at the gender imbalance in blood donation. More women donors must be found, the conference noted, greater efforts placed on recruiting the young, and rural strategies developed for both collecting and providing blood.

Source: World Health Organization

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