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URGENTdonating blood/HIV Undectable?
Nov 16, 2005

a friend of mines tested undectable and feels he/she can now donate blood. I am naive to blood donating, but I don't think he/she should. Help settle the dispute what do you think

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

This is an important issue and one that frequently causes confusion. However, considering the fact your "he/she" friend apparently is still confused about their gender, perhaps confusion about HIV viral load terminology isn't all that unexpected. At any rate, here is the scoop. I'm assuming your friend is HIV positive and on treatment, and now has an HIV viral load that is non-detectable. The important concept is that undetectable does not mean noninfectious. Effective treatment does not make people noninfectious, even if their viral loads become "undetectable" (non-detectable). Your friend definitely should not donate blood. Chances are he/she would be told so at the blood donation site. If he/she did donate, their blood would still test positive for HIV, the blood would be discarded and your friend would receive a letter from the blood bank telling him/her that he/she needs to see his/her physician.

The same confusion related to the term "non-detectable" (or "undetectable") can lead some folks to the false conclusion that the non-detectable person no longer has HIV or is no longer infectious. It is true that non-detectable viral loads reduce the risk of HIV transmission per exposure, but it certainly does not eliminate it. The best analogy I heard involved hand grenades. It is more dangerous to juggle 10 hand grenades than 2 hand grenades, but it only takes 1 to blow you to smithereens!

Do your friend a favor and fill him/her in on the facts.

Dr. Bob



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