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Source: Ministry of Health
Title: M Tshabalala-Msimang: World Blood Donor Day
SPEECH BY THE MINISTER OF HEALTH, DR MANTO TSHABALALA-MSIMANG, ON
WORLD BLOOD DONOR DAY, 15 June 2004
This is a very special day for our country, South Africa. For the
first time the world is focused on this country as we host this
world event for the first time.
This is the day when the whole world joins in celebration to honour
and thank those people who donate their blood on a voluntary,
unpaid basis to give the most precious gift of all - the Gift of
In South Africa, we have taken an approach that no tissue, blood or
blood product should be commercialised! Therefore, donors form the
backbone of our blood transfusion services and a source of life for
many people who may need blood. That is why today as a country we
are saying thank you to all donors for your unselfish dedication to
fellow South Africans. You are giving a precious gift to people who
you will probably not even know, but whose life will be saved by
Because of our dedicated donors, South Africa is proud of its
record in providing safe blood to those in need. We are already
experiencing the benefits of having a single blood transfusion
service. This is with the exception of Western Cape, which, we
hope, will ultimately come on board and be part of this national
The benefits of having a single national blood transfusion services
* Adequate national preparedness in case of national
* Sustainability of blood supply
* Standardisation of quality criteria
* And better funding for research and sharing of national research
The focus of World Blood Donor Day this year is the youth. I want
to encourage the youth of our country, South Africa, to safeguard
their health by caring for a precious lifesaver, their blood.
School leavers are encouraged to enrol in Club 25, a special
programme for donors between 18 years to 25 years. The Club helps
to establish a donor culture and ensure safe blood for
We are looking for donors that live healthy lifestyles and are
responsible in their sexual practices. We are thus looking for low
risk donors, who are free of potentially life-threatening
infections that can be transmitted to the recipients of their blood
including HIV, hepatitis viruses, syphilis and malaria.
The testing of donated blood for infections that can be transmitted
by blood is essential. But the safest donations come from the
safest donors. Evidence from around the world demonstrates that
voluntary non-remunerated donors who give blood regularly are the
foundation of a safe blood supply because they are least likely to
transmit infections through their blood. Safe blood starts with
A well-organised blood donor programme, with a self-exclusion
option, based on voluntary blood donation can achieve a low
prevalence of HIV among blood donors, even where there is a high
incidence of HIV infection in the general population.
While we grapple with the challenge of relatively high prevalence
of HIV in the country, it is encouraging to note that there is only
0.04% HIV prevalence amongst our regular blood donors. As a
country, we have made major efforts to ensure that donated is
screened for a variety of infections and to maximize the safety of
our blood transfusion service especially in the context of HIV and
Programme Director, every second, someone in the world needs blood.
These millions of people owe their lives to people they will never
meet - people who donate their blood freely without any reward.
Unfortunately, many others die every day because they do not have
access to safe blood when they need it.
Blood shortage has a particular impact on children with severe
life-threatening anaemia caused by malaria and malnutrition,
victims of trauma and on women with complications of pregnancy. A
significant number of deaths can be avoided if everybody has access
to a safe supply of this lifesaving resource. This can only be
achieved through a significant increase in the number of people who
choose to donate blood regularly so that blood is always available
for patients whose treatment depends on transfusion.
All blood donors are miracle workers. I want to urge you to
encourage your healthy friends and families to become miracle
workers. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to
lead healthy lifestyles in order to protect ourselves and keep our
In conclusion, I would like to thank all individuals and
organisations that contributed in making this World Blood Donor Day
a success. I would like to recognise in particular the
collaborative efforts of four international organisations that work
for the provision of safe blood globally and these are:
* World Health Organisation
* The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
* The International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations
* And the International Society of Blood Transfusion.
Donation of blood is an act of generosity and love. Our Government
is committed to supporting a single blood transfusion service and
safe blood to everybody in need.