Not many game for voluntary blood donation


Thiruvananthapuram: Despite boasting of health indicators comparable to the West and high literacy levels,  the track record of the state where  voluntary blood donation is concerned, is quite dismal and almost as bad as that of states like Jharkhand.
At present only 20 to 30 per cent of the 3.5 lakh units of blood required in the state annually is from voluntary donors unlike in West Bengal which tops with 90 per cent voluntary blood donation followed by Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat and Tripura.
Experts say voluntary blood donation is not gaining ground in Kerala, which depends heavily on family donors and even paid donors, because of  lack of awareness especially among the youth. They point out that while in most Western countries blood donation is 100 per cent voluntary, India figures among 73 countries where over 50 per cent of blood donation is by replacement or paid donors. Kerala  only reflects this trend, according to them.
“But besides encouraging voluntary donation we should also lay stress  on the quality of  blood collected. We need to have a cadre of regular donors comprising mainly of youth in each district to ensure regular blood donation and also quality blood supply,” says Dr Prassanna Kumar of the technical support unit of the Kerala State AIDS Control Society.
“When we need blood for haemophiliacs who turn anaemic, we turn to the blood bank here. But only voluntary blood donation can ensure regular supply of blood for haemophiliacs,” says Dr Sreenath,  head of the department of haematology  at the medical college of Thiruvanantha­puram.
Studies have revealed that despite a high literacy rate there are several misconceptions regarding blood donation in the state. While the very sight of blood and blood bags makes many people nervous, some are scared of the needle and others apprehensive about contracting infectious diseases when donating blood.
Despite such fears people from the lower economic strata are more willing to donate blood than the affluent, the studies disclose. While men form the largest number of donors, women donors are few although  they  constitute more than 50 per cent of the state’s population.
Interestingly, a study conducted by the AIDS Control Society in  rural areas of the state, found than 70 per cent of the respondents had never been approached to donate blood. 

Transfusion kits
Facts About blood donation
A person weighing 50 kg will have around four litres of blood. The spleen stores around 300 ml of blood as reserve and while donating, the blood stored in the spleen gets released for general circulation. The body becomes normal within 24 hours of donating blood. From a person weighing 45 kg, 350 ml of blood can be taken. Whereas one weighing 50 kg and above, can donate 450 ml of blood.
There is a general lack of awareness among the public on blood donation. Questions like who can and cannot donate are quite common.
Who can donate blood?1) Anyone in the age group of 18 to 60 years, weighing above 45 kg and with a haemoglobin count of above 12 can donate.2) Donors who have been ailing from fever and diarrhoea can donate blood once they are fit and well.3) Those who have been administered anti-rabies and hepatitis B vaccines can be donors again only after a year.4) If you have had malaria, you can donate three months after complete recovery.5) Those suffering from common cold can donate blood. But if donors suffer from upper respiratory tract infection, they will have to wait for a week after recovering.6) Women can donate blood even during menstrual cycles.
Who should not donate blood?1) Those having HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases should not donate blood.2) Those under treatment for diabetes are advised not to donate blood.3) While on blood thinners, one should not donate blood and if it’s inevitable, the medicines have to be stopped three days prior to donating blood.4) Women should not donate during pregnancy and lactation.

Poster by World Health Organisation on World Blood Donor day, 2013
Youth outfits to take the lead
Thiruvananthapuram: On World Blood Donors Day, the leaders of prominent youth organisations in the state have resolved to jointly create awareness about the importance of blood donation and promote voluntary blood donation among the youth of the state.
Voluntary blood donation is still very low in the state, so there’s an urgent need for the youth organisations to take the lead for a cause that is humanitarian and has no ideological or political strings attached to it. Though youth organisations hold blood donation camps from time to time and also donate blood on demand, such initiatives have been few and far between.
“We are ready for a joint campaign. All organisations should involve their cadres in such activities in a big way. The DYFI has already won awards for an effective blood donation campaign in Malappuram and we intend to replicate the work in other districts,” said M. Swaraj, DYFI state secretary.
Newly elected Youth Congress president Dean Kuriakose said, “We will extend full support to any joint initiative taken by youth organisations for promoting blood donation. It’s a great idea. We are in the process of constituting a blood donors’ army at the state and district level. But a joint campaign would be quite effective.”
Bharatiya Janatha Yuva Morcha president V.V. Rajesh said that his organisation was ready to take the initiative in convening a joint meeting of all youth organisations to discuss the issue and plan a joint strategy. “I think such an exercise will send a positive signal to the youth. Moreover, it will bri­ng youth organisations toge­ther on a social and huma­nitarian platform,” he added
Lack of effective screening
Thiruvananthapuram: With just six inspectors to monitor nearly 200 blood banks in the government and private sector, several questions are being raised about the quality of blood collected and given for transfusion  through many of these establishments.
The latest instance was of an eight-year-old girl contracting HIV through blood transfusion from a government hospital. “Five regional drug inspectors and a staff who is on deputation to the State Blood Transfusion Society are responsible for 164 private and 33 government blood banks,’’ said Drugs Controller Hari Prasad. The proposal for increasing the staff strength was pending before the government, he added.
Experts say blood donation during the ‘window period’ is one of the main sources of transfusion-linked HIV infection. “The time frame between when one is exposed to HIV, to the time he tests positive for HIV antibodies can take up to three to six months. One may need two to eight weeks from the time of possible exposure to get an accurate test result. It takes this long for the immune system to develop enough HIV antibodies to be detected,’’ said a doctor.
To prevent transfusion related infection, the state needs successful donor recruitment, retention plan and an effective deferral strategy to exclude donors with risk behavior. As per norms all blood donations should be screened for evidence of infection prior to the release of blood for clinical use.
Lack of separation units: The state is losing hundreds of units of precious life saving blood because of poor storage facilities and lack of blood component separation units in many blood banks. Only blood banks attached to premier medical institutions have state of the art facilities.  But many of the taluk and district hospitals are yet to have storage and separation facilities.
Last year hundreds of units of blood were discarded at the general hospital in Thiruvananthapuram because of erratic power supply. “Similar incidents have occurred in many places. It is criminal waste of life saving blood especially when voluntary blood donation is extremely low,’’ said an official.

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