Gates Foundation Grant Aims to Improve Blood Safety in Latin America
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $4.9 million to the Pan-American Health Organization to bolster blood safety programs throughout the Americas, Agence France-Presse reports. The three-year grant will strengthen efforts by the organization and its member countries to screen all blood units for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis, with additional screening for Chagas' disease in Latin America by the end of 2003 (Agence France-Presse, 12/14). Only 18 countries in Latin America currently screen 100% of donated blood for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and only five countries obtain all of their blood from voluntary, unpaid donors, considered to be "the safest group" of blood givers. Dr. Jose Ramiro Cruz, PAHO's regional adviser in laboratory and blood services, said that each year, about 50,000 units of blood are used for transfusions without being screened for HIV and hepatitis B, and about 1.5 million units of blood are not tested for hepatitis C. Funding from the grant will go toward improving the efficiency of the laboratories that screen the blood, developing national quality assurance programs and establishing external performance evaluation programs for blood banks. The grant will also help promote voluntary, unpaid blood donation through educational programs. PAHO hopes that, within three years, 50% of blood donors in each Latin American country will be "voluntary, altruistic and non-renumerated" ( PAHO release, 12/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.