SANBS improves blood safety

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pretoria - The South African National Blood Services (SANBS) has achieved considerable success in the improvement of blood safety in South Africa as well as maintaining a sustainable donor base, says SANBS Chief Operational Officer Ravi Reddy.

Reddy noted that in the five years since implementing its new strategy, SANBS has seen an increase in the active donor base from 350 000 in 2006 to 412 000 in 2010. This includes black donors which were only 7% in 2005 to 23% in 2010.

Presenting SANBS' strategy, called 'Safe and Sustainable Donor Base in the Face of the HIV Pandemic', during the recent Laboratory Medicine Congress, Reddy said following major public outcry regarding its ethnic group base risk management approach in 1995, SANBS changed its strategy. 

He said the state-of-the-art individual donation nucleic acid testing (ID NAT) for HIV-1, HBV and HCV was introduced, and the use of ethnic group as a risk marker was discontinued.

"SANBS also initiated education and marketing programmes to increase the donor base, especially of black donors to ensure long term sustainability of the donor base. The implementation of ID NAT has detected an additional 96 HIV positive donations that would not have been detected with the previous testing strategy.

"Even though HIV prevalence in the donor population has increased from 0.07% in 2005 to 0.21% in 2010, there has not been a single reported case of HIV transmission through blood since the implementation of ID NAT in October 2005... One has to compare this to an average of two reported cases of patients contracting HIV through blood transfusion between 2001 and 2005," said Reddy.

CEO of the National Health Laboratory Services in South Africa, Sagie Pillay, noted that despite the role of labs in the health system, testing is seen as a cost driver rather than a cost saver.

"With the advent of National Health Insurance, we need to collectively, public and private, urgently promote rational and cost effective diagnostic methods, while exploring innovative service and financing models that optimise the use of scarce health care resources," Pillay said. - BuaNews

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