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Blood banks are extra cautious

Aug 6, 1999

I used to give blood on a regular basis, but was denied 2 years ago, when they asked if you live with someone or lived in Africa in the 80's, so of course I told the truth, I was informed that I could possibly have the HIV virus, but the "O" strain, I went to my doctor, was tested, and the test was negative, and the same thing for my husband, the information at the time was scarce on HIV-O, is there a test available that can detect this strain? We were told 2 years that there was not, has anything changed? We are both in our mid 30's, we have 2 healthy active children, we show no signs, but I still cannont give blood, and the blood bank has informed any people that got my blood, that they could be infected too. It would just clear our minds and the recipiants of my blood, If we could find out. We do live in Canada.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

When we are discussing the safety of the blood supply, if a person is at any possible risk for any bloodborne disease, they are usually deferred from donations, even if the chances of infection are small. For example, although the Group "O" strain of HIV-1 is EXTREMELY rare worldwide (even in Western Africa where it is most commonly found), and although the presently used tests will usually detect this EXTREMELY rare strain (but not always), when it comes to the blood supply, blood banks do not want to take even this extremely remote risk. So although the chances of you having the Group "O" strain of HIV-1 are EXTREMELY low, and although the presently used tests will usually detect this EXTREMELY rare strain, the blood banks still do not want to take the very remote risk of infection to the blood supply.

In addition, if you have been to Africa, you may have been exposed to other bloodborne diseases such as Malaria and African Trypanosomiasis (African Sleeping Sickness). The blood banks do not want these diseases to get into the North American blood supply either.

It is for these reasons that people who have spent time in Africa are usually deferred from donating blood (either temporarily or permanently), depending on the circumstances.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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