Blood testing and safety

At Australian Red Cross Lifeblood our number one priority has to be the safety of the patients who receive donated blood. We base our guidelines on who can donate blood and what the latest medical research tells us is safest for patients and donors.

What is blood tested for?

Each time you give blood, we test your donation for blood type. We test all donations for red cell antibodies (proteins which react with red blood cells and may cause problems in a patient receiving a blood transfusion) - unless they are being used to produce only plasma products.

Our screening tests look for five infectious diseases that can be passed on to patients through a blood transfusion. All donations are tested for:

  • HIV (AIDS virus)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

Some donations are tested for: 

  • Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) 
  • Syphilis
  • CMV

We’ll test your blood for malaria if you’ve travelled to or lived in an area where malaria is common.

If any of these tests are positive, we will notify you and provide you with counselling and support. However, as our tests are only suitable for blood product screening and not to diagnose an infection in a person, any positive test must be confirmed at an external clinical laboratory. Therefore, this process takes time and you should not assume that because we have not immediately notified you after blood donation that you have tested negative.

If you test all blood anyway, why aren’t some people allowed to donate?

Unfortunately, even the most sophisticated tests aren’t perfect. For many infections, there’s a period after someone is infected when the disease won’t show up in testing yet – this is called the ‘window period’. Also, extremely rarely, tests can fail to find an infection.

That’s why the most effective way to keep Australia’s blood supply as safe as possible is to make it extremely unlikely that a blood donor has any infections when they donate. That means if someone has a slightly increased risk of a particular infection they won’t be able give blood or may need to wait a while before they do.

It’s not that Lifeblood doesn’t need donors. It’s just that our priority has to be to keep the people who receive donated blood safe.

We understand that it can be disappointing if you’re not allowed to donate. That’s why we have lots of other ways you can help.

Does Lifeblood pay for donations?

No. We’re proud to say that we don’t pay for blood donations. All of our amazing blood donors generously volunteer their time and blood.

This is in keeping with international World Health Organisation and Red Cross policies that encourage voluntary, non-remunerated blood donation to support a safe blood supply.

For our donors, knowing that that they’ve saved lives is a priceless reward.

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