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AIDS and Blood Transfusions

Before the AIDS virus was discovered some people who received blood transfusions did catch AIDS. This was because of the innocent ignorance of the infected blood donor and of society generally. We just did not know that the disease, AIDS, existed.

Since May, 1985 the position in Australia has changed. The Australian Red Cross Transfusion Service now provides information on AIDS to all potential donors. All donors now sign a declaration at each donation indicating that they are not members of the high risk group. These high risk groups include :

  1. Homosexuals and bi-sexuals.
  2. Users of intravenous drugs.
  3. Sexual partners of both of these groups.
  4. Any person who has received a blood transfusion in the five years prior to May, 1985.

In addition, all donated blood is tested by the Red Cross for evidence of infection of AIDS. Blood which tests positive is discarded and the donor notified.

As there was no testing of blood for AIDS before 1985, anyone who received a transfusion between 1981 and 1985 should speak to their doctor about the possibility of having an AIDS Antibody Test. It is certainly not compulsory to be tested and, indeed, is probably not necessary if you are not sexually active. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether it would be a good idea to be tested.

You cannot catch AIDS by donating blood. All equipment is sterile with disposable needles and collection packs guaranteeing this. It is considered that the chances of catching AIDS from transfusions in Australia is one in a million. Hemophiliacs should be re-assured that all Factor 8 is now heat treated to eliminate any chance of transmission of the AIDS virus. If your doctor makes a responsible judgment that you need a blood transfusion you should rest assured that the risk to your life by not having a blood transfusion is far greater than the risk of catching AIDS through the transfused blood.

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