Arrive Alive

SANBS Initiatives


"Successful recruitment occurs as a result of well-planned marketing and education campaigns that are firmly rooted in the culture, attitudes and expectations of the country's population."

(* Excerpt taken from 'Making a Difference: Recruiting voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors', produced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies).

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is committed to the provision of sufficient safe blood for patients who need a blood transfusion as part of their medical treatment. Various recruitment strategies have been established to promote the message of safe blood donation.

-::- National Blood Donor Month -::-

April is National Blood Donor Month. All activities, promotions and events are aimed at increasing awareness of blood donation, the various uses of blood and blood products, and general education regarding blood safety, from a blood donation and blood recipient perspective. Increased media coverage and SANBS’ activities also serves to address potential shortages, which may occur during the Easter holiday.

Blue ribbons are distributed to encourage awareness and support of safe blood donation around the country. In addition to numerous promotional activities, the Pick ‘n Pay National Blood Awareness Cycle Tour is the main activity during National Blood Donor Month. The cycle tour is primarily funded through sponsorships and, as awareness is the primary aim, the success of the tour is dependent on the amount of coverage received in the regional and national media.

-::- Pick 'n Pay National Blood Awareness Cycle Tour -::-

Cyclists and organisers are involved in spreading the message of safe blood donation by conducting school talks in various towns and visiting blood donor centres. The incredible support and participation of South Africa’s media and the general public collectively contributes to this amazing feat and is a positive indication for the future of safe blood donation.

This increasingly popular event is already in its fourth year and is successfully making inroads in establishing global relationships. A rider-exchange programme was established this year between the South African National Blood Service and the LifeSouth Community Blood Centres in USA, highlighting the international concern of blood safety around the world.

Avid South African cyclists: Andries Kruger, Dennis Gow, Phillip Donovan and Hendrik Badenhorst, shared in the ride of their lives when this lucky quartet was selected to participate in the American-based ‘Five Points of Life Ride’ (FPOL), which commenced on the 1st of September this year and came to completion on the 19th of October.

The concept of a 'purposed' cycle tour, aimed at creating awareness of the need for blood and blood products, originated five years ago when the LifeSouth Community Blood Centres’ launched its first Five Points of Life (FPOL) ride. While the local version of the tour shares the objective of saving lives by focusing on the need for safe blood, the US-based tour emphasizes the ‘five points of life’ – blood, bone marrow, organs and tissues, cord blood and the separate components.

The annual Pick 'n Pay cycle tour grows each year, and while the primary emphasis is on awareness, a positive result has been an increase in the collection of safe blood as a result of the awareness created.

-::- National Blood Drives -::-

A precedent in blood collection was established last year when the World Record Blood Drive was held in Johannesburg. An excess of 3 000 units of blood was collected.

Due to the resultant boost in blood collections, and thanks to the rotational system of blood stocks, it was found that the massive blood drive significantly alleviated blood shortages during the holiday season at the end of the year.

A national blood drive, the "Spring to Life" Blood Drive, was held this year to prepare for holiday season. Media involvement was obtained from around the country to ensure the success of this initiative. Almost 3 000 units of blood were procured nationally during this drive.

-::- Four Times Campaign -::-

An integral part of the SANBS PR programme is the management of an annual campaign to educate and inform blood donors, and members of the public, of the motivation and procedures involved in the donation of safe blood. With each year's campaign, donors are encouraged to donate four times in that year, in order to promote regular blood donation.

"Blood is what ties us together", the successful four times campaign run in 2002, focused on educating the public about the rationalisation of the blood services in South Africa and emphasised blood as life's unifying element.

The 2003 campaign, "From me to you – a Gift of Life", will focus on the selfless blood donors committed to donating safe blood to help save the lives of patients.

-::- Six Times Plasma Programme -::-

Between 100 000 and 140 000 plasma donations are required each year to supply the wide range of plasma products required by the South African community. The Inland Region of SANBS strives to maintain high standards of excellence and quality for patients who rely on our blood and blood products.

Plasma can be stored for longer periods than other blood components such as platelets or red blood cells. The six times plasma programme was therefore developed to improve the quality and safety of this blood component, which is used in the treatment of patients with deficiency of coagulation factors or to treat burn victims. Blood donors are therefore encouraged to promote blood six times a year, in order to ensure the continuous availability of safe plasma.

Plasma procured from regular blood donors is frozen and placed under 'quarantine' for a period of at least 56 days. The plasma is only released for transfusion to patients after the donor has donated blood again and found to be negative for all markers of transfusion transmissible diseases, namely: HIV 1 & 2 antibody, HIV 1 p24 antigen, hepatitis (jaundice) C antibody, hepatitis B surface antigen and TPHA (syphilis). The programme aims to reduce the risk of transmitting an infection from a donor who is in an immunosilent 'window period' for any of these diseases at the time of the initial donation.

-::- Club 25 – The Club that gives the gift of life! -::-

Scholars and young people under the age of 25 contribute about 15% of the million units of blood donated annually by voluntary blood donors in South Africa. SANBS has therefore developed an unique campaign for this target market, known as Club 25. This campaign promotes the importance of leading a sexually safe and healthy lifestyle and encourages members to incorporate regular blood donation into their lifestyle.

Members are issued with a challenge to donate 20 units of blood by the age of 25. All blood donors between the ages of 16 and 25, who do not engage in HIV-related risk behaviour and are able to meet the requirements of the Club are eligible to become club members.

You can join Club 25 if you:

  • are older than 16 and younger than 26;
  • don't participate in HIV-related risk behaviour; and
  • can donate twenty units of blood before turning 26.

Club activities:

  • Youngsters are encouraged to join when they leave school;
  • Members will receive a Club 25 bag on their third donation;
  • A National Club 25 Newsletter is published four times a year;
  • Members are recognised for achieving their Club 25 goals at annual functions.

-::- Bone Marrow Donation -::-

Bone marrow is needed for patients with leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and certain cancers. The stem cells in bone marrow is necessary for the development of red and white blood cells and platelets. There is a 1 in 200 000 chance that your bone marrow will match with somebody else’s. Since there are about 2 700 people each year that need a bone marrow transplant, the establishment of an extensive bone marrow registry is crucial to their survival.

SANBS works in conjunction with the Darren Serebro Bone Marrow Foundation to encourage blood donors and members of the public to place their names on the bone marrow registry. Potential bone marrow donors must be between the ages of 18 and 55 at the time of registration. They should also be in good general health and have no history of hepatitis or other sexually transmitted diseases. Once there is a tissue match on the registry, further testing is done and the donors’ health is checked again.

Blood donors are able to submit their bone marrow sample at one of SANBS’ blood donor centres and samples are processed at the Tissue Immunology Department. A recent bone marrow/blood drive was held in conjunction with Joburg-based radio station, 94.7 Highveld Stereo. It was indeed an encouraging event where the people of Johannesburg gave up their Monday morning to help someone in need.

For more information on blood donation or your nearest blood donor centre, call the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) toll free at 0800 11 9031 or visit


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