Possible blood donors limited by FDA restrictions at UD
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Donating blood more than once a year is something junior Nicole Thomas finds rewarding because it can potentially save up to three lives each time, she said.
“It’s really important for cases of natural disaster so now I just try to do it when I can,” Thomas said.
On Thursday, students lined up at Trabant University Center to donate blood as part of a blood drive organized by Delta Gamma and Sigma Pi with Blood Bank of Delmarva.
While students such as Thomas meet the requirements to donate blood, it is not uncommon for people to be ineligible for donating blood, Michael Waite, director of community and media relations for the blood bank said.
“65 percent of the population is ineligible to begin with,” Waite said. “For example if you lived in Europe at the time they had the mad cow disease, you are ineligible to donate forever.”
Waite said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the criteria for blood donors to keep the blood supply healthy, as one in three people will need a transfusion at some point in their life. The criteria ensure that receivers of blood donations will not have to worry about further medical complications.
Among the college population, the top two reasons for being turned away are tattoos and iron deficiency, which Waite attributes to unbalanced diets that are common among college students.
Tattoos are a potential source of hepatitis, Waite said, so donors with tattoos are temporary deferred for one year.
The Red Cross website states, “you should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.”
The website lists eight behaviors that may put a donor at risk for contracting HIV including a male who has had sexual contact with another male since 1977.
Sophomore Jessica Dougherty said she believes there is no valid medical or scientific research to support this ban.
Dougherty said she thinks this criterion is based on social stigmas since AIDs did not start in the gay community but as an animal virus.
Dougherty’s friend, who is gay, has been rejected based on this requirement though he has wanted to donate blood all his life, she said.
“He wants to do this and help other people, and it makes him very upset,” Dougherty said. “He can’t based on his sexual orientation. It feels like people just assumed based on his sexual orientation that he has AIDS.”
Dougherty said the rule can be unfair to many men, who go through a lengthy process in order to donate, only to be turned away.
Waite said this ban is due to regulations set forth by the FDA based on the fear of unknown cases of HIV. He said the blood bank employers do not discriminate against people who want to donate blood
“Because of certain concerns, we have to follow the FDA’s regulations, as does every organization,” Waite said.
The requirements for donating blood are extensive, and each potential donor is required to fill out a questionnaire and undergo a mini physical examination. Even if the donor previously donated blood, he or she can become ineligible to donate for different reasons.
Thomas said she has been previously turned away for iron deficiency.
“I always get nervous right before I come in now because I’m always afraid it will happen again and I do love giving blood because it has such a positive impact,” Thomas said.
Waite said there are several simple ways a donor can make sure he or she is not turned away on the day of donating, most of which include overall healthy habits like eating iron-rich foods, maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated.
For other students such as freshman Catherin Buddish, this was their first time donating blood. She was previously apprehensive about donating blood, she said, but decided to donate this year.
Buddish said she donates because some of her family members are barred from donating due to medical reasons.
“My mom can’t do it because she had hepatitis when she was a kid,” Buddish said. “My dad does it whenever he can and my brother does it too. If we can do it, we will.”
Freshman Allison Carleen, who attended the blood drive Thursday, said she believes everyone who is eligible should donate blood.
Even with strict requirements, 35 percent of the population is eligible to donate, according to Waite, but only about five percent of people, most of whom are over the age of 45, do.
“I just think, ‘Why not if you can do it and save someone’s life?’” Carleen said.