AIDS and Blood Donation

Susan Kretschmer sxk29 at po.CWRU.Edu
Fri Apr 16 13:27:22 EST 1993

In a previous article, cliff at (cliff) says:

>I'd like to follow up on my previous questions.  So far the responses I got
>are 50-50.  50% of the responses say that when you donate blood you will
>absolutely be notified if you are HIV positive.  The other 50% says that
>you will absolutely not be notified.  It's an interesting question to 
>resolve, because many people believe that if they donate blood and
>are not contacted, they are HIV negative.  Think of all the lives which
>could be lost if 50% of the US is under this impression and it is false. 

This is apparently kind of a complicated issue!  The information that follows
comes from University Hospitals of Cleveland and the Cleveland chapter of the
Red Cross:

Blood collected by the Red Cross anywhere in the nation is screened for:

Hepatitis A, B, and C
syphilis (VDRL screen)
ALT (an enzyme that when elevated can indicate liver damage)

Federal law requires that those testing HIV positive be notified and the case
reported to the CDC. This was the only legal requirement the Red Cross and
Univ. Hospitals blood bank staff knew about.

By Red Cross policy all those testing positive for the other diseases are also
notified (consent for these tests is included in the paperwork you sign when
donating blood).  University Hospitals' blood bank follows Red Cross policy. 
There are apparently other community blood donation centers; I was told that
Red Cross policy is "standard" but apparently not legally mandatory, with
the exception of HIV testing. 

If you have tested positive at one time there is no national database of
"prohibited donors"; they wouldn't know if you came back unless maybe it was
to the exact same donation center, but they do test every individual donation
so they would probably catch it the second time too (within the detection
limits of the test).

However as a medical student I have to add the following disclaimer: this is NOT
the way to find out if you are HIV negative.  If you have any reason to believe
you might be positive you should NOT give blood, because there is a (VERY)
small chance that it could get past the screening.  Screening of donated blood
is a public health measure, not a diagnostic test.  HIV testing, along with 
the appropriate counseling and referral services is available free in many

*med student mode off* :)

If anyone has more information, especially on what is required by law at the
state and federal level, I'd like to see it!


Susie Kretschmer 
CWRU School of Medicine       "Don't ask me, I'm just improvising"
MSTP Class of 1998		 			--Rush, PRESTO
Internet: sxk29 at

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