Canadian blood services
has a really cool system for making the blood
system safer: an anonymous
opt-out system. Everyone has to do the huge questionnaire
thing, but since a lot of the questions are embarassing, people lie and give blood anyhow so they don't have to explain to their friends or coworkers why they were rejected. However, now at the end of the interview, the nurse gives you a sheet with two barcode
stickers on it, called Confidential Unit Exclusion labels, and leaves the room. You pick of the stickers - one means Yes, use my blood, one means No, don't use my blood, but as barcodes no one can tell by just looking at it which is which, and put one on your information sheet. The other goes in the trash. Then the nurse
comes back and you go to donate.
As for the questionnaire, here are the things they look for. Answers to some questions - like have you done crack cocaine in the last 12 months - will immediately disqualify you, while questions to others - like some of the travel questions - will just mean that your blood is subjected to extra tests, for instance testing for malaria if you're considered at risk. In general anything that puts you at risk for AIDS or HIV immediately disqualifies you, because that's the one disease that can slip through all the testing they do on every unit of blood because it can be undetectable for the first 6 months of infection. The questions:
Are you feeling well, do you have a cold or flu or infection or allergy problem at the moment?
Have you taken any medication or had dental work in the last three days?
Have you had a vaccination or taken accutane in the last 3 months?
In the last six months have you been pregnant, been under a doctor's care, or taken various prostate condition drugs?
In the last 12 months have you had a piercing, tattoo, acupuncture, electrolysis, graft, been in contact with someone's blood, had an injury from a needle, had a rabies shot, or had close contact with someone who has hepatitis or jaundice?
Have you ever taken Tegison or Soriatane for skin problems, ever had a brain covering graft, ever taken human growth hormone?
Ever had yellow jaundice except at birth, hepatitis, liver problems, epilepsy, coma, fainting, heart or blood pressure problems, heart surgery, cancer, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, kidney lung or blood problems, Chaga's disease, babesiosis, or leishmaniasis?
Ever had malaria, or been outside Canada and the US in the last three years?
Have you visited the UK or France since 1980? If so, have you spent three months or more cumulatively in either country since 1980?
Have any of your blood relatives ever been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?
Have you ever had an HIV/AIDS test other than for donating blood?
In the past 12 months have you been in jail?
Have you ever given blood elsewhere in Canada, or under a different name?
Do you have AIDS? Have you ever tested positive for HIV or AIDS?
Have you used cocaine in the last 12 months?
Have you ever taken illegal drugs or steroids with a needle, even one time?
Have you ever taken drugs or money for sex since 1977?
Male donors: have you ever had sex with a man even one time since 1977?
Female donors: have you ever had sex with a man who has had sex with another man?
All donors: have you ever had sex with someone whose sexual history you were uncertain of?
Have you ever taking clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia?
Have you ever had sex with someone who has AIDS or has tested positive for AIDS or HIV?
Have you had sex in the last 12 months with someone who has ever used cocaine or has injected illegal drugs with a needle, or who has taken money or drugs for sex, or taken clotting factor concentrates?
In the last 12 months have you had or been treated for syphillis or gonnorhea?
In the last 12 months have you received blood or blood products by transfusionfor any reason, such as an accident or surgery?
Have you lived or travelled in the following countries since 1977: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger or Nigeria? If so, did you receive a blood transfusion or medical treatment with a blood product while you were there? Have you had sexual contact with anyone who was born or has lived in those countries since 1977?
Do you believe there is any chance you may have AIDS?
(taken and slightly edited from www.bloodservices.ca. I don't think they mind folks spreading the word, but do keep in mind: not all these questions mean you absolutely can't give blood. some do, but others depend on the situation. if you want to give blood, please go in and talk to them to find out if you are eligible. the need for blood donors is always urgent.)
That's a lot of conditions, and that's a lot of questions, a lot of very controversial questions. It might be better for their PR to cut out some of them. Obviously not all male homosexuals have AIDS or even are at risk of having AIDS. Obviously not everyone who lived in Chad for a year has AIDS. Obviously not everyone who's had a tattoo in the last year has a horrible seeping gangrenous infection or AIDS. Electrolysis for god's sake, is a ridiculously small risk. Obviously not all people who have had electrolysis have a strange infection or AIDS. BUT! Some do. Some small small percentage do and don't know it. This is life: strange things happen. And it would be really really tragic if a little kid who was in a car accident ends up with AIDS because a blood donor, a well meaning kind-hearted donor, lied about one of the questions because they were sure they knew more than the nurses about the grim statistics of AIDS risk. The policies are offensive to a lot of people. If that's what it takes to keep the blood system safe, so be it. Canada is an excellent example of the dangers of being too lax: legal battles are still going on for the many people who were infected with AIDS though a blood transfusion in the eighties, before the blood system was put in place.
Please give blood if you can. But don't fight it if you can't.