Credit: Freepik

Ministry of Health Proposes More Thorough Testing of Donors’ Blood

According to the Czech Red Cross, there are about 250,000 regular blood donors in the Czech Republic, with around 50,000 more being needed. Photo credit: Freepik.

Prague, May 1 (CTK) – The Czech Health Ministry is proposing more thorough testing of donors’ blood for HIV and hepatitis, bringing processes into line with recent standards in the EU’s Western states. The proposals are laid out in a draft decree and accompanying documentation.

According to the Czech Red Cross, there are about 250,000 regular blood donors in the Czech Republic, with around 50,000 more being needed.

People who have had certain diseases, as well as men who have sex with men, cannot donate blood. According to spokesman Ondrej Jakob, the ministry expects the decree to open a wider discussion among experts about whether sexual intercourse between men is a sufficiently risky sexual activity to exclude them from donating blood.

There are a number of reasons why people are permanently or temporarily not allowed to donate blood. These include illnesses such as hepatitis or tuberculosis, chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure or a recent heart attack, or recent use of antibiotics.

“Sexual orientation, nationality, race, political affiliation, religion or gender are in themselves no reason for exclusion from blood donation in the Czech Republic, not even temporarily,” Jakob told CTK.

He said the reasons are exclusively such factors that may endanger the blood recipient and are assessed based on epidemiological data.

“In view of the higher risk of acquiring HIV infection, sexual intercourse between men is considered a risky activity and men who have sex with other men are excluded from blood donation for six months,” he said. Until 2019, this exclusion period was 12 months.

According to data from the National Reference Laboratory for HIV/AIDS, there were 292 new cases of HIV in the Czech Republic last year, and 66 in the first quarter of this year.

“The share of modes of transmission is changing in connection with the growing proportion of foreigners with long-term residence, among whom heterosexual transmission is predominant,” said Marta Maresova, head of the reference laboratory at the Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the State Institute of Health.

The planned new decree focuses on improved testing of donors’ blood for HIV and hepatitis B and C.

“The aim of introducing these tests is to increase the safety of transfusion products in the field of infectious diseases transmitted through blood transfusion and thus increase safety for patients as recipients,” the ministry’s explanatory document reads. The more thorough testing will cost health insurers an extra CZK 110 to 135 million per year.

Blood from donors is either used directly for blood transfusions based on the blood type of the donor and recipient or used to make special preparations and medicines. Donations are not paid, but people are entitled to time off work on the day of their donation.

The ministry proposed that the new decree should take effect from 1 July.

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