What diseases is donated blood tested for?

All the fuss over whether homosexuals can donate blood begs the question as to how thoroughly blood is tested after donation. What tests are donations put through in a typical Western country (UK, USA, Canada etc)? How safe if this blood if having a gay experience ten years ago can tar you for life?

I think it’s more along the lines of the tests being expensive, so if you are high risk, they’d rather not have your blood, as the probability of it being thrown out after the test is too high.

Tests performed routinely on all donor blood units by Hema-Quebec:

  • HIV type 1 and 2
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV; linked to some leukemias and lymphomas)
  • Syphilis

In all these, the test looks for the antibody, so once you’ve been infected, even if you feel fine, you’re ineligible to donate. Exception: Hepatitis B. If you’ve recovered from HepB and no longer have the active virus circulating in your blood, or you’ve been vaccinated, you’re still allowed to donate.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) - done on some blood units, because most people have already been exposed to CMV and it’s not a problem. The testing is only to identify a number of CMV negative units which are put aside for use in infants and immunocompromised people who have no prior CMV exposure.

  • West Nile Virus - done on blood collected between June 1st and November 30th, when West Nile virus is more likely to be around. Still only experimental.

The blood is also tested for blood type including weak variants of the Rh factor that may otherwise be missed, and they are screened for the presence of antibodies against blood group antigens.

Reference: Circular of Information for the use of Labile Blood Products, June 2005 edition, published by Hema-Quebec.

It varies, but here’s a minimum:

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C
Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV), type 1 and type 2

Blood organizations also save money by testing small samples from 10-12 donors mixed together. If these comingled samples pass all tests, all of the donations are cleared for use.

If any positive reactions pop up, the same tests are done again on two comingled sets of 5-6 donors. The process is repeated until the infected unit or units are found.

Why isn’t the blood tested for HIV? Is that a really expensive test?

Blood is tested for HIV.

HIV is in both the lists of tests provided in this thread. First in both lists, in fact.

Trust me, it’s tested for. Both the antibody and the DNA of the virus itself are tested for.

Most labs in the US now test for West Nile Virus as well.