A blood-collection crew turned down an offer of a blood donation from an Ethiopian-born lawmaker at the Knesset on Wednesday.
Commenting on this, Ran Reznick writes in Israel Hayom as follows:
A businessman I know well is not allowed to donate blood in Israel. This is because he spent a long time in England, from 1980 to 1996. And not just him, but all his family, which was with him in England during that time, is not allowed to donate blood in Israel.
The reason? During the time they were there, the country faced an outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, more commonly known as Mad Cow disease, spread through eating infected meat. The concern is that anyone who lived in England during that time may carry a protein in their blood that could cause the disease.
However, that businessman is not complaining of discrimination against him by the Health Ministry or Magen David Adom. He understands that the prohibition, put in place by the Health Ministry, is meant to protect public health. For the same reason, the ban extends to people who were in Ireland and Portugal during that time, as the disease also spread there.
These restrictions are only part of a host of constraints dictated by the Health Ministry (and implemented by the MDA blood bank) to decrease the likelihood of Israeli patients receiving, God forbid, blood infected with various viruses, including HIV. For that reason, additional restrictions enacted by the Health Ministry on blood donation include people addicted to drugs, and people who were born or spent more than a year in most African countries, including Ethiopia, that have a very high incidence of AIDS.
There is no especially nice way to say this, but you can’t avoid the facts: According to Health Ministry data, the three main groups among the 6,102 people in Israel infected with HIV in the last 30 years are African immigrants (2,371), theose who live a toeivah lifestyle (1,413) and drug addicts (829). The basis for the ban is the length of time between infection and detectable lab test results — time in which the virus may not be found in blood that is then given to patients, who will only later find out they have been infected.
It is impossible to justify, accept and forgive incidents in which Israeli hospital patients become ill from receiving infected blood because every possible precaution to prevent infection from blood transfusions was not taken. These facts cannot be distorted by screaming populist headlines or by politicians (including Health Minister Yael German), who are rushing to make belligerent statements without checking the facts on such a sensitive and critical topic in public life and health.
Perhaps we must find a more sensitive way to deal with blood donations, but we cannot be any less careful.