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Botswana's HIV Prevalence Reducing Country's Blood Donor Pool, Red Cross Official Says

June 20, 2008

Botswana's high HIV prevalence has reduced the country's pool of blood donors while also increasing the need for blood services in the country, Nomsa Mbere, president of the Botswana Red Cross Society, said Saturday on World Blood Donor Day, Botswana's Mmegi reports. According to Mbere, 60% of collected blood in Botswana comes from secondary school students, while 40% comes from blood drives and volunteers who visit clinics in Gaborone and Francistown. She added that only 2% comes from regular blood donors.

In addition, statistics for the first quarter of 2008 indicate that HIV-related blood transfusions alone are equivalent to all blood transfusions used for accidents and maternity cases, Mbere said, adding, "The result is that some patients have had to go without much-needed transfusions in the face of acute blood shortages." She noted that healthy people should be encouraged to donate blood because it ensures regular health screening, encourages maintenance of healthy lifestyles, earns recognition in the community and has minimal risks.

According to Mbere, improved donor screening and testing has reduced the rate of discarded blood by 10% during the last four years. The discard rate related to HIV also has been reduced by 5%, she said. "This increase in the level of blood safety reflects the efforts made by multiple players in promoting risk reduction and screening capacity," Mbere said, adding that Botswana has met World Health Organization targets of ensuring blood safety by 2012. "We could not have achieved these results without the commitment of thousands of donors whose blood is donated for purely altruistic reasons," Mbere said. However, Botswana still faces the challenge of how to expand the pool of regular donors to meet the current demand, she said (Dube, Mmegi, 6/18).

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