Friendly reminder that it’s in you to give
Most of us have probably heard or seen an advertisement to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), especially when demands are critical; however, given only 1 in 60 Canadians choose to donate blood, why do other Canadians avoid CBS like the plague?
One of the most common concerns when it comes to giving blood are needles and passing out. Those who have trypanophobia tend to shy away from giving blood or even getting tested for their blood type, which is a bit of a harder hurdle to get over. For those that worry about passing out due to the amount of blood they’re giving, CBS has minimum weight requirements in place and snacks around to maintain blood sugar levels to avoid that very situation. If you’re prone to fainting at the sight of blood in general, it’s a bit harder to avoid passing out unless you don’t watch the entire process of blood donation.
Others cite not being aware of where or when blood donations are occurring. It is very easy to find this out information by visiting the CBS website or calling their number at 1-888-2-DONATE. Most donation dates and places are at easily accessible areas and times; there are often convenient blood drives on university campuses and at community hubs. For those that say they haven’t donated blood because they’re never asked or invited to donate somewhere, remember that it’s not only up to CBS to get you to the donation locations.
Some individuals chalk up their lack of blood donations to not having the time or just avoiding it altogether. For those individuals, it’s key to offer incentives such as having rewards for donating a certain number of times or being a first time donor. While CBS does offer pins and certificates for certain levels of donations, it may be worth investing a little money into short campaigns that give out things like $5 gift card. Of course, these types of initiatives appear more like bribery in exchange for blood, when blood donation should be more of an act of altruism.
Medication and chronic illnesses can also be barriers to donating blood. I’m sure there are other individuals like myself that were unaware for years that they could donate blood even while taking medication for a chronic illness. This is why being aware that CBS has a detailed list of medications or medical conditions online that do or do not hinder your ability to donate blood is incredibly important. Otherwise, some eligible donors may avoid donating blood altogether just because they’re not sure they won’t be rejected at the door for taking a particular medication.
Restrictions on how long you have to wait to donate blood after getting piercings and tattoos may also be discouraging younger people to donate. Individuals have to wait three months after getting a tattoo or piercing to donate due to the risks of infection associated with both, which is an important reason to wait to donate blood. However, approximately 36% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 have tattoos based on a 2012 study, younger generations may be showing up less to donate because of blood donation requirements around tattoos. Perhaps if CBS increases awareness about the restrictions, they might catch potential young blood donors before they head to an appointment for their next piercing or tattoo.
If you are a man that has sex with men, CBS requires you to wait a year since your last sexual contact with a man to donate blood. The blood ban hits gay men disproportionately since it automatically excludes those who are sexually active or in long term relationships. It also perpetuates the stigma of HIV/AIDs in the gay community, even though you can get HIV/AIDs if you are in a heterosexual relationship. Given that the proportion of individuals that identify as LGBTQIA+ is increasing among younger generations, the CBS should consider changing their donation rules related to men who have sex with men so they don’t lose a lot of eligible donors in the future.
There are many reasons why people avoid donating blood, most of which can be remedied by increasing awareness around restrictions to donating blood, how to get involved, or providing more incentives. CBS should also consider that they may be attracting less of the younger generation due to the rules around donating if you get tattoos, piercings, and men who have sex with men. In the end, I would still urge all of you to look into donating blood and to donate if you can.