Australian Red Cross Blood Service

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The Australian Red Cross Blood Service (ARCBS) is a branch of the Australian Red Cross. It is the body primarily responsible for blood donation and related services in Australia.


Initially, the Red Cross's Australian blood services were managed by state-level organisations. Victoria's Blood Transfusion Service was founded in 1929, and by 1941 each state had its own Blood Transfusion Service. Also in 1941, the National Emergency Blood Transfusion Service (later the National Blood Transfusion Committee) was formed to coordinate the state groups. In 1945, the Red Cross took over blood and serum preparation units established by the Australian Army.

In 1995, a government report recommended the foundation of a separate national structure, and the ARCBS was formed in 1996, encompassing the old state and territory blood donation/transfusion services.

Relationship with CSL

ARCBS and its predecessors had a long-standing relationship with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), a government medical body founded in 1916. The Red Cross supplied CSL with donated blood for use in research and manufacture of medical products (e.g. serum for transfusion).

In 1994, CSL was privatised, becoming CSL Limited. The ARCBS continued to supply CSL with donated blood. This caused a major public-relations crisis for the ARCBS when it became known that blood donated for public benefit, without payment, was being used by a private industry for financial gain.

Infectious diseases

Blood donated in Australia has been tested for Hepatitis B since 1972, HIV-1 since 1985, Hepatitis C since 1990, HIV-2 since 1992/3, and HTLV-1 since 1993.

As with other blood transfusion services, the ARCBS has had to strike a balance between protecting blood recipients against infection, and accepting enough donors to maintain an adequate supply of blood. This has led to debate over which categories of potential donors should be excluded. For example, to protect against CJD, the ARCBS now refuses donations from anybody who lived in the United Kingdom for a total of six months or more between 1980 and 1996.

The service has a policy of barring men who have had sex with other men during the previous twelve months from donating blood (an earlier policy had excluded any men who had had sex with other men since 1980, regardless of time elapsed). This has been the source of ongoing controversy, and is currently before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination CommissionTemplate:Fix/category[citation needed]. People who have engaged in heterosexual or female-to-female sex during the past 12 months are allowed to give blood. Female-to-female transmission is considered by the Center for Disease Control to be rare. [1] As well as deferring blood donations from people who have had male-to-male sex, other categories of sexual activity can also result in a 12 month deferral, such as sex with a prostitute or having a partner who has tested positive to hepatitis B or C. [2]

In 2003, a federal government report found that despite the introduction of Hepatitis C screening from February 1990, infected donors were told to keep donating until July of that same year; a total of 20,000 people were estimated to have been infected with Hepatitis C via blood products. Some infected blood was given to CSL and may have been used in thousands of CSL products, although it has not been shown that any of these products caused infection in the recipients. [3].

  1. ^  Health Matters Library HIV/AIDS
  2. ^  Female-to-Female Transmission of HIV CDC National AIDS Hotline Training Bulletin #139
  3. ^  Australian Red Cross Blood Donor Eligibility

External links

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