Red Cross testing
Aug 6, 2000
I recently heard that United Blood Services is now the largest HIV tester in America. I am deeply disturbed by this. As a public health professional, please tell me: How safe is the blood supply? How reliable is their testing and tracking of donors?
Response from Mr. Kull
When blood is collected from donors by the Red Cross and affiliates, the blood is bar coded and then transported to one of eight national testing laboratories. The blood is then tested for numerous viruses, including HIV-1/HIV-2 and hepatitis antibodies. Any positive or indeterminate result is discarded. Approximately 2% of all donations are destroyed due to positive results, which are for the most part false positives. In 1996, p24 antigen tests were included in the screening method, which reduces the window period by about a week.
All unsuitable donors are tracked in a central database. They will not be able to donate blood in the future. The Red Cross attempts to notify individuals of possible infection and recommends health care. The risk of receiving an HIV positive blood transfusion is 1 in 676,000.
The blood supply in the U.S. is very safe.
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