June is National Blood Donor Month and to motivate people to donate, the SA National Blood Service (SANBS) and Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS) are using it to encourage South Africans to save a life by donating blood.
No one knows the importance of blood donation like 33-year-old Sinazo Kholweni who needed a transfusion two years ago.
While busy at work one day, Kholweni fainted in the bathroom. The next thing, she found herself on a hospital bed.
“All I remembered was feeling light-headed and everything was a blur after that. When I woke up doctors told me I fainted because I was anaemic and I needed a blood transfusion while they observed me in hospital for two days.”
Since then, Kholweni has appreciated regular blood donors because it saved her life.
Kholweni - and thousands of others with life-threatening conditions - depend on campaigns like these that motivate people to donate blood.
WCBS has launched a blood donation campaign, which highlights the impact that a single donation can have on another person’s life.
“You might not know who your blood is going to, but you can be sure that it will make a difference in someone’s life,” said Michelle Vermeulen, WCBS spokesperson.
“We hope that this campaign will inspire people to give blood.
“Although many people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives, less than 1.5% of the population donates.”
Sadly, there is still a stigma around blood donations from the gay community. Many still believe that gays are not allowed to donate blood because it once was regarded as high-risk.
SANBS has gone to great lengths to debunk this perception.
Doctor Thabiso Rapodile, lead consultant: training, education and advisory services at the SANBS said all donors were eligible to donate regardless of their sexual orientation or preference.
He said in May 2014, South Africa lifted any form of deferral on blood donors who are men who have sex with men (MSM) thus allowing MSM to be treated like all other donors.
Before that South Africa had a six months deferral on MSM who had had sexual intercourse within six months of blood donation.
South Africa is one of very few countries in the world that allows MSMs to donate blood, the other countries include Russia, Spain, Italy and Mexico.
Silungile Mlambo, the SANBS’s chief marketing officer said: “The best gift you can give anyone is the gift of life. We know that South Africans have huge hearts and we call on them to fully embrace the spirit of this year’s World Blood Donor Day theme, ‘Safe blood for all’.”