What’s stopping 58 million people giving blood?

Posted on: 19/11/2009

By Kirstie Dyke

Of all those able to give blood in Britain, only four per cent do. That leaves 96 per cent who are able to give blood relying on the efforts of such a small minority to provide for them when they are in need. There are some groups and individuals that do not believe in blood transfusions for whatever reason, but what is stopping those who are not morally against giving blood?

It would be hard to imagine these people refusing a blood transfusion when they themselves are in an emergency. 

Some are scared of the needles and pain that they think the procedure will entail. I was one of these people. I gave blood for the first time recently after being literally dragged to the clinic by my mother (who has recently received a badge for 30 donations) and I’m not too proud to admit that I was nearly crying with nervousness. I asked for an anaesthetic, but was told it would be more painful than the blood transfusion, so decided to go without. And you know what? It wasn’t that painful. Sure, it felt a bit uncomfortable and strange having the needle in my arm for such a long time, and my hand got cramp from having to clench and release a fist to get the blood pumping, but I’ve had worse experiences being vaccinated.

They take a pint of blood during the session, after testing to make sure that you are not anaemic and asking lots of questions to confirm that giving blood will not affect your health, and that your blood will be safe. A pint seems a lot, but your body replenishes it within 24 hours, as long as you drink enough fluids. This isn’t hard – the clinic’s staff will have lots of free teas, coffees, squashes and water available, as well as biscuits and cakes! 

Others claim that they have never had the opportunity to give blood. However there are blood donor clinics in my area nearly every month (you can only give blood every 16 weeks though). A quick check of show the nearest and soonest clinic. Most clinics take part well into the evening.  

Perhaps the college should have a blood drive day? I’m sure the free food and drink would attract all us strapped-for-cash students! Just look at all the people who take the Chlamydia test for the freebies. You’ll have the satisfaction of doing something good for someone out there (You could have saved a life!) and you get a nice sticker thrown in as part of the deal.  

What is your experience of blood donations? Add a comment below.


3 Responses to "What’s stopping 58 million people giving blood?"

I can remember from an early age seeing the adverts on the T.V, informing people of the benefits of giving blood, and from then I knew I wanted to do it as soon as I could. Since then, my mum has joined up, and has received her 15 donations badge, and both my uncle and my grandmother are regular donors.

I am 17 soon, which I believe is the required age to give blood, and after answering a few questions on their website, to see if I would be legible or not to give blood, I was astounded by the fact that gay men can not give blood! I myself am gay, and find it ridiculous that I’m not able to give blood just because of my sexual orientation. Some could say ‘well just don’t let them know’, but that is besides the point! We’re no different than heterosexual people, and carry the same risk of having A.I.D.S as any other group of people do!

So well done on signing up to become a blood donor – it’s such a great thing, and it’s not even an hour every 16 weeks out of your busy schedule. It’s going to help soo many people, and I am quite jealous that you and many others will be able to carry on the good work, and people like me will not be able to!

Rant over 🙂

I totally agree with you, I would have included this in the article but I feel it needs it’s own one, there are so many issues to discuss.
The NHS seems to justify its policies with statistical evidence (no doubt biased) that 63% of HIV diagnoses in the UK are gay men, and they don’t have enough time or money to go into each persons sexual history.
Personally I think they should have stringent enough tests to make sure that no infected blood can pass through so that everyone can give blood if they wish.

There are two things to add to this discussion. First, Kirstie, you need to edit the link in your post. It doesn’t work anymore (at least, it doesn’t this morning). If you want to encourage people to donate, it’s no good giving them an excuse like a broken link to justify why they don’t follow up on your otherwise first-rate campaign. Editor’s note: The link has now been changed to
Second, in reply to Nathan, sorry Nate, you’ve got it wrong. Of course gay men can give blood. This is what the National Blood Transfusion service says:

“The criteria across all of the UK Blood Services for accepting blood donors on the basis of virus risk are recommended to the Government by the Department of Health’s independent Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO). In order to assure the continued safety of the blood supply, the current policy is to ask those in groups shown to have a particularly high risk of carrying blood-borne viruses not to give blood. These include men who have ever had sex with men. The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour (such as anal and oral sex between men), rather than the sexuality of the person wishing to donate. There is, therefore, no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man nor of women who have sex with women.”

The instrumental passage is the one which says: “There is … no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man”.

And the reasoning behind this, which is not at all ridiculous, is that (as no doubt you know) there is a “window” after HIV infection during which the HIV virus is not detectable on testing, either during a routine test which you as a gay man might take for your own peace of mind, or when blood is routinely tested post-donation.

OK, you might ask why I am going to the trouble of making this comment. The answer: I don’t want other gay guys to be discouraged from offering their blood because of your misinformation. As Kirstie writes, there are few enough actual donors as it is, without losing other potentials because of a mistaken assumption.

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