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Blood Donation and HIV testing
Oct 23, 1996

Dear Mr. Sowadsky, I realize that after a person donates blood, his/her donation is tested for HIV as well as other infectious diseases. Also, I have heard that blood donation centers alert people when their blood tests positive for HIV. Therefore, is it correct to assume that if a person is a regular blood donor and has never received such news, that s/he is probably HIV negative? Thanks for your answer!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. You are correct that if a person donates blood, and tests positive for one of the screening tests (including HIV), they will be notified by the blood bank that they have tested positive for one of the diseases that they are screened for. When donating blood in the USA, a person is tested for HIV-1, HIV-2 (a rare HIV type found primarily in Western Africa), Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HTLV-I (a virus that causes a type of leukemia), and HTLV-II (similar to the HTLV-I virus). If you test positive for any of these infections, you will be notified by the blood bank.

So if the blood banks are continuing to allow you to donate, that would indicate that you have tested negative for all of these infections. Of course, if you want to be absolutely sure of your negative status, you can always call the blood bank. But if you had tested positive, the blood bank, and often your local health department as well, would have notified you of a positive test result. If you test negative for these diseases, and you do not put yourself at risk for these diseases in the future, your continued donation of blood is extremely important. Donating blood saves lives! Your willingness to help others is wonderful!

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



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