Continued education campaigns by the South African National Blood Service are paying off, with five times more black South Africans donating blood now, compared to a decade ago.
These are the findings of a new study, based on ten years of data. In 2005 just over 43 000 black South Africans donated blood, but in 2015 that number increased to over 246 000.
Prior to 2005, blood donations from black South Africans were used selectively and often discarded, due to the higher recorded rates of HIV infection in the black population. At the time, to keep the risk to a minimum, SANBS felt it had no alternative, however controversial, but to use race as a criterion.
SANBS Spokesperson Silungile Mlambo says black people were not only denied access in the past, but actively shied away from donating because they thought their blood would simply be thrown away.
Then on 3 October 2005, SANBS became the first blood service in the world to implement a highly sensitive donor blood test nationwide, called individual donation nucleic acid testing (NAT), which is specifically targeted to detect the Hepatitis B and C Viruses and HIV.
The ten-year analysis shows that, after the implementation of NAT, there was a substantial increase in the number and proportion of donations from black South Africans. The proportion of first-time blood donors in this group increased from 19% in 2005 to 54% in 2015.
Over the same time period, the proportion of regular blood donors also showed a fivefold increase from 5% to 26%.
Lead-author of the study and Senior Manager of Operations Testing at the SANBS, Marion Vermeulen, says despite this increase in the black donor base they need more donors to meet the demand.
“During 2018 less than 1% of South Africans donated blood. For most of this year, we had less than three days of blood in stock. We need regular donors, but we also require an increase in our first-time donors to expand the small donor base.”
Visit sanbs.org.za to find out where you can donate.