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February 1, 2006

Blood Safety—At What Cost?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

JAMA. 2006;295(5):557-558. doi:10.1001/jama.295.5.557

Blood is an intrinsic part of human life. It is something others need and it is each person's to give. Blood can be sold or given voluntarily out of a feeling of social obligation. The characteristics that make donated blood an expression of human altruism also make it a threat to human health. Blood products can be life saving but can also transmit life-threatening viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections from donors to recipients.

The provision of safe and adequate blood supply is an important component of national health requiring government commitment and support to ensure that blood and blood products are safe, accessible, and adequate to meet transfusion requirements.1 The cornerstone of a safe and adequate supply of blood products is the recruitment, selection, and retention of voluntary nonremunerated blood donors from low-risk populations.2 To identify these low-risk populations, reliable epidemiologic data on both prevalence and incidence of infectious diseases in the general population are required.

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