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Only 41% of donations in Latin America and the Caribbean are voluntary and altruistic, the safest way to collect blood

Washington, D.C., 13 June 2013 (PAHO/WHO) – In Latin America and the Caribbean, only 41% of blood supplies are obtained through voluntary altruistic blood donation, the safest way to collect blood, according to the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). On World Blood Donor Day, June 14, PAHO/WHO is calling on countries in the Americas to work to achieve blood supplies obtained 100% from voluntary altruistic donors.

In 2011, only 3.8 million (41%) of the total 9.3 million units of blood collected in Latin America were altruistic donations, that is, neither paid for nor donated to replace blood used for relatives or friends. In the Caribbean, 56% of blood donations were altruistic. Ten countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have achieved 100% voluntary altruistic blood donation.

PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said countries have made great efforts to improve the availability and safety of blood supplies in the Americas. However, while annual donations have gone up, the quantity of voluntary altruistic donations in the region has not increased significantly. She said more public education and promotion of blood donation are needed to ensure safe and ample blood supplies.

María Dolores Pérez-Rosales, PAHO advisor on blood transfusion and organ transplants, said countries also need to improve the integration and sustainability of their national blood programs and improve their ability to estimate their needs for blood and blood products. “They should also work with health staff to improve the blood donation experience to encourage people to donate regularly,” she said.

Most blood donations in Latin America and the Caribbean are obtained from “replacement donors,” that is, donors who must give blood before a family member or friend undergoes a medical procedure. In addition, many countries use blood from paid donors.

According to PAHO/WHO data, blood-borne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis viruses are much more common in the blood of paid and replacement donors than in voluntary altruistic donors. This is because both paid and replacement donors are more likely to hide risky behaviors from blood bank personnel than are people whose only motivation is to give the gift of blood.

In 2011, nearly 83 million blood donations were collected worldwide from voluntary altruistic donors, an increase of nearly 8 million donations over 2004, according to WHO data. About 60 countries collect 100% of their blood supply from voluntary altruistic blood donors, but 73 countries still collect more than 50% of their blood from replacement or paid donors.

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are working with support from PAHO/WHO, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Society of Blood Transfusion and the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations to increase the safety and sufficiency of blood supplies through increased voluntary altruistic blood donation and screening.

Some of the countries’ achievements in this area include:

  • Aruba, Bermuda, Canada, Cuba, Curaçao, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Suriname, the United States, and the French Territories (Guadeloupe and Martinique) currently collect 100% of their blood supplies from volunteer altruistic donors.
  • More than 99% of blood units collected in Latin America and the Caribbean are screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis, and 92.5% are screened for T. cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease.

One blood donation can save at least three lives. Transfusions are often needed to manage complications during pregnancy and childbirth, to treat children with severe anemia, and for people with chronic illnesses. Transfusions are also used during heart surgery and organ transplants, in cases of traumatic injury, and as part of cancer therapies.

June 14, 2013, is the 10th World Blood Donor Day, and this year’s slogan is “Give Life: Donate Blood”. Jamaica is the host country for the regional celebration.

World Blood Donor Day is held every June 14th and pays tribute to people around the world whose voluntary donations help ensure safe and sufficient blood supplies. Their contributions are essential to ensure that all patients have access to blood when they need it.

PAHO was founded in 1902 and is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with all the countries of the hemisphere to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas. It acts as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas and is also the specialized health agency of the Inter-American system.


Link to Information resources on Blood Services:

    Leticia Linn, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Phone: + 202 974 3440; Cell: +1 202 701 4005;
    Donna Eberwine-Villagran, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Phone: +1 202 974 3122; Cell: +1 202 316 5469;
    Sebastián Oliel, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Phone: +1 202 974 3459; Cell: 202 316 5679; Knowledge Management and Communication, PAHO/WHO,

    Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 June 2013 14:07

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