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Filed under: Central Asia Health HIV

Lyudmila, a blood donor in Tashkent

Lyudmila, a blood donor in Tashkent

We almost never think about blood, and rarely think about donating it. I realized the importance of donating blood only recently, after our project rolled out a donor blood safety component.

Many times blood is needed for victims of catastrophes, car accidents, or during childbirth, and sometimes the availability of blood within seconds determines whether a person’s life is saved or not.

What is even more impressive, one in three people will need to use donated blood at least once in their lives (World Health Organization). A blood donation can mean the difference between life and death.

However, there is a downside: transfusion-transmitted infections, including HIV. It is estimated that three percent of HIV infections worldwide are transmitted by transfusion of contaminated blood and blood products.

So is it possible to make donor blood safe and free from infection?

“Ensuring safety of donor blood for transfusions requires availability of sufficient reserves of donor blood at all times, which will enable proper examination of all donated blood,” says Dr. Hamid Karimov of the Scientific-Research Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, in Uzbekistan.

“Therefore, securing adequate and reliable supply of blood can be sustainable only if there is a pool of regular voluntary donors from low-risk populations,” says Dr. Karimov.

Thus, safe donor blood is possible only if there are enough people who donate regularly – just for the sake of doing good.

Who are these people? In search for the answer, I visited one of the blood transfusion centres in Tashkent. The slogan at the entrance reads, “A strong society depends on safe blood. Safe blood will save a life.”

Right away, I am lucky enough to meet two remarkable people.

“Why do you donate blood?” I ask.

“There are sick people who need help and we, the donors, offer this help,” says Lyudmila Hamrayeva. “Various misfortunes can happen, such as natural disasters or other emergencies, and sometimes only human aid is needed. Today I saw a woman, who came here in tears – her 17-year old son is in hospital now, and urgently needs platelets. Now I am donating blood for him. It is good to feel that a 17-year old will be rescued with my donation.”

“Overall, I feel very good about being a donor,” says Ludmila. “My 26-year old daughter also donates blood. Sometimes I see the people who received my blood. They are different people of different ages – babies, adults, children.  I want to appeal to people, especially young people – come and donate! You will feel genuine gratitude and appreciation; you will even switch to a healthier lifestyle just because you feel the responsibility of being a donor. Donate blood!”

Alijon, blood donor in Tashkent

Alijon, blood donor in Tashkent

“I donate because I am happy to make an input into improving someone’s health,” says Alijon Jumanov. “Moreover, I believe that donating blood is also good for my own health. Consultations I receive from the staff of the blood transfusion centre encourage me to lead healthy lifestyle. Of course, the most important thing is knowing that someone’s health will benefit from my donation.”

“Yes, I meet some of the people who receive my blood. Recently I spoke with an elderly woman who received my blood and recovered. She excitedly thanked and blessed me for the “gift,” and unwillingly tears welled in my eyes with joy – this was a blissful moment, the great reward I received for being a blood donor.”

In order to strengthen blood donation services in the country, the Government of Uzbekistan developed, adopted and enforces a number of laws. These efforts are supported by a UNDP project on the HIV response in Uzbekistan funded by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

These are the testimonies of people who have been blood donors for years. Having a sufficient supply of blood donations allows time for a thorough check, ensuring that transfused blood is really safe and does not contain such devastating viruses as HIV, or Hepatitis B and C.

Would you donate blood?