Are you a good Samaritan looking to share a part of yourself to the world? Or maybe you’re the Grinch, and you’re starting to think that the whole ‘being nice’ thing might make you happy (it’s a lie, don’t fall for it). Then what better than to give blood! But why stop there? Go on, give us your kidneys! Let your heart guide you… to my underground theatre room. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about organ harvesting… unless you want it to.
Understandably, you would look to the Red Cross Blood Service and not an underground organ trafficking network. But that doesn’t come without some strict standards listed below. I, on the other hand, am open to accepting your kind heart, or liver.
- You must be at least 16 years old, but until you’re 17 and in WA, you must supply a parental consent form along with your precious young blood.
- You must weigh over 50 kilograms.
- You must wait at least 4 months after getting a tattoo to donate.
- You can’t donate blood if you have injected drugs that were not prescribed by a registered medical practitioner, not even if it was one time, such as for recreational purposes or otherwise.
- You must have an adequate haemoglobin level. Low iron commonly leads to low haemoglobin, but it is possible to have normal levels of haemoglobin if your iron count is low. Check with your GP to make sure you’re eligible.
- You can’t donate blood if you have angina.
- You must wait at least 9 months after giving birth and around the time the infant’s diet is primarily comprised of solid foods, if you have been breastfeeding.
- You can donate if you have travelled overseas but usually must wait between 1 to 4 months. Even if you have no symptoms of illness, you could have still caught one.
- You may have heard that many British people are ineligible to donate. This is because there isn’t a reliable screening method for Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (‘Mad cow’ disease). So, if you were in the UK for at least 6 months from the beginning of 1980 until the end of 1996, or had a blood transfusion since that time, you cannot give blood.
- The status on giving blood if there has been a risk of HIV infection in an area where there is a high prevalence of the virus, is that you must wait 12 months after sexual activity with someone from one of those areas, even if a condom was used.
- Men who have or had sex with another man (MSM) are not eligible to give blood unless it has been 12 months since their last sexual encounter. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission finds that the policy is not discriminatory. I’ll let you decide on that. The Blood Service is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), in which it recommended to the TGA that the deferral period be reduced to 6 months. That was declined. The UK, USA, NZ, Canada and France also have a 12-month deferral.
- As well as this, you must wait 12 months to donate if you have had sex with a male or female sex worker or you were a sex worker. As you can tell, current sexual regulation is strict and complicated.
- You also must wait 12 months if you had a sexual partner who: injected drugs not prescribed by a medical practitioner; have HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or human T-lymphotropic virus; or they had treatment with clotting factors.
The Red Cross test your blood during donation. Although they test for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, there is a window period where if you have been infected, it won’t show up on the test. Hence why they recommend deferring donation if there is a possibility you may have a virus. You should still get tested for them by your medical practitioner!
It is frustrating not being eligible, especially if your blood type is in demand. Currently there is a demand for O negative blood types to give blood because it can be given to any patient universally. Ultimately, these precautions are taken to ensure continued safety, but the measures taken to be more inclusive of its donors has a long way to go. To learn more about blood types and giving blood in general, check out the references, or send me a generous sample of your blood on a regular basis.