Medical Precautions and Donated Blood
Health care workers are continuously trained on clinical precautions to take regarding HIV/AIDS transmission. For example, clinical workers are instructed to always wear latex gloves when handling patients, especially if blood is present. Other precautions include the use of eye goggles and masks. Screening donated blood is very important as well, since transmission of infectious diseases in this manner can occur easily.
Screening Donated Blood
The need for blood is great--on any given day, approximately 32,000 units of red blood cells are needed. Accident victims, people undergoing surgery, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or other diseases, such as sickle cell disease, all might need a blood transfusion. Approximately 26.5 million units of blood components are transfused each year.
Blood is tested for ABO group (blood type) and Rh type (positive or negative), as well as for any antibodies that may cause problems.
Screening of donated blood for possible infectious diseases is commonplace. Tests for hepatitis B and syphilis were conducted before 1985. Since then, tests for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) and the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) have been added.
Screening for the HIV Virus
Screening for the HIV virus detects antibodies (body’s reaction agents to infections) directed against the HIV-1 or HIV-2 viruses. HIV-1 is much more common in the United States, while HIV-2 is more common in Western Africa. Donors are tested for both viruses because both are transmitted by infected blood. Both of these viruses can lead to AIDS.
An extra test to detect the actual HIV virus is also conducted as precaution. This enables the virus to be detected up to a week before the antibodies test. In this manner the odds of getting HIV from a blood transfusion is decreased to 1 in 825,000 units of screened blood.