Some Blood Donors Now Need Help Themselves
September 25, 2001
Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, thousands of Americans have rushed to give blood in an effort to aid the victims. Now, however, some of those donors are themselves asking for help.Adapted from:
Many people are donating blood for the first time, and some of them have learned they have viral diseases such as hepatitis, syphilis and even AIDS. "It would be a traumatic way to find out that there's a problem," especially one such as AIDS, said David Bergmire-Sweat, director of the CDC national hotlines, run by the American Social Health Association in Research Triangle Park, Raleigh, N.C.
Since the mid-1980s, blood has been tested for viral diseases like AIDS and hepatitis, and prospective donors are screened for risky behavior. Now, with so many more people learning they are infected, disease hotlines have experienced an increase in calls from donors seeking help. "They're really panic-stricken. They have no idea what it means," said Thelma King Thiel, chair of the Hepatitis Foundation International.
Since Sept. 11, more than 22,000 units of blood have been donated in the Carolinas blood services region of the American Red Cross, said spokesperson Debbie Estes. The organization collected twice as much blood as normal the week of the attacks, and donations are still running 20 to 30 percent higher than usual every day, Estes said. Offices are staffed around the clock, and donors are being asked to make appointments for later in the fall. Nationally, more than 330,000 people have given blood to the American Red Cross since the attacks, said Senior Medical Officer Dr. Peter Page. The Red Cross supplies about half the blood in the United States.
Slightly more than 1 percent of donors test positive for infections. One in 20,000 whole-blood donors will test positive for HIV; one in 2,500 for hepatitis B; and one in 500 for hepatitis C, said Sara Foer, spokesperson for the American Association of Blood Banks.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.