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Voluntary Blood Donation to Ensure Blood Quality

China is continuing efforts to guard the quality of blood used in transfusions by advocating voluntary donation over blood selling.  The announcement was made during the three-day Third China Blood Transfusion Conference that ended in Shanghai today.

Eighty-five percent of the blood used in China is now collected from donors. Wang Yu, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Medical Policy Office, sees this as an important shift and one prompted by 1998's Blood Donation Law. Before that, donated blood only accounted for 22 percent of the total.

"The essential way to ensure blood safety and cut off transmission of diseases through blood transfusions is for 100 percent of the blood to be collected from donors," said Wang. Experts want to cut down on such diseases as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B.

Some provinces have managed to collect most of their blood from donors, with the proportion in Henan reaching 100 percent. Hundreds of people in the central Chinese province were infected with HIV/AIDS through blood selling practices in the 1990s.

Yet in some big cities rates are still comparatively low. In Shanghai only 20.85 percent of the city's blood is collected from voluntary donation and officials blame this on the city's compulsory blood donation schemes.

According to the Shanghai Blood Administrative Office, 50 percent of local blood comes from quotas imposed on enterprises and universities, while almost 30 percent is bought from other provinces.

Zhu Yongming, director of the Shanghai Blood Center, said the city has enhanced awareness of the issue and is taking steps to make it more convenient for people to donate blood. "In addition to people's reluctance, enterprises' inducement of extra cash to employees for fulfilling their quotas also prevents people from giving blood voluntarily," he said.

Blood shortages are a problem elsewhere in the world too, but in Europe many donate regularly, sometimes 10 to 15 times. Long term, known donors often consider giving blood a moral obligation. "It's easier to know their medical situation compared with those who donate only once," said Paul Strengers, secretary-general of International Society of Blood Transfusion.

In contrast, less than 5,000 Chinese have donated blood 20 times or more, though some provinces are now exploring building regular blood donation teams.

The Ministry of Health still recommends that people only receive transfusions when absolutely necessary, since 1.46 percent of Chinese with AIDS were infected with HIV via blood transfusion and 9.71 percent through selling blood.

(China Daily, eastday.com October 19, 2004)

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