Tuesday, June 10, 2008

red cross reject

so i used to donate blood to the red cross pretty regularly when i was in college. this was almost 10 years ago. i recall reattempting to do so after returning from the peace corps, but i can't remember exactly when or why it didn't work out... it didn't. something about my travels, surgeries and the risk of exposure.

they called me back again last month... i guess they really needed blood and must've been looking through their old files. i tried to explain what happened the last time i came in to donate, but to no avail. they wanted me to stay on hold and wait for a nurse to walk me through the series of screening questions. i said i'd just rather come in and do that in person.

i did... and the result was no surprise. of all my recent travels to countries in africa, latin america and the middle east (and to rural parts of those countries, as well), they were most concerned with my two years in cameroon. not the surgeries there... just simply living in cameroon was too high a risk of exposure for the red cross.

we're talking about exposure to HIV/AIDS, of course. anyway... i was expecting this. in fact, i came in knowing that this would probably be the case. but also the best way to get them to stop calling me, i thought. the nurse handling my case was very kind and considerate... overly concerned with my reaction to being "rejected" (in my own words). which i totally understood.

i got a letter in the mail from the red cross shortly after my visit... to follow up on the matter and inform me that i wasn't eligible for donating blood. "indefinitely deferred," is what they termed it. anyway... i tore up the letter (not out of anger, but just in the process of cleaning up) before i realized it would be worth posting here.

in short, they don't want my blood.


  1. What do people in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria do when they need blood transfusions? Wonder what the risk/benefit standard is when you can't be that strict.

  2. good question... is there a doctor in the house?

  3. i piqued my own curiosity with my question so i asked an old friend of mine who works at whitman walker clinic in DC. first, she said you were probably rejected more for your heptitis C risk than HIV because hep. C is rampant in subsaharan africa and highly contagious. she couldn't remember the citation, but 80% of the world has blood screening standards and 20% does not. she bets cameroon doesn't. (even china reuses needles!) so people in those countries are SOL, which is sad. she said the CDC website probably has info on which countries fall in the 20% range.

  4. FYI...


    According to WHO, more than 70 countries reported to the Global Database on Blood Safety that, during a 12-month period in 2000-2001, they did not test all donated blood for all the major infectious agents transmissible by transfusion, i.e., HIV, hepatitis B and C viruses, and Treponema pallidum (the etiologic agent of syphilis); 66 countries did not have nationally coordinated blood transfusion services or were unable to provide complete national data; and 39 countries reported that, because of interruptions to supplies of test kits, blood was released for clinical use without testing for transfusion-transmissible infections (9).

    9. World Health Organization. 2005. Proposal for establishment of World Blood Donor Day. Geneva: World Health Organization.