Blood for Love Not Money

“Blood for Love” is the name of a charitable event with a romantic twist with which volunteers from the local branch of the Red Cross, the members of Club 25 — a local association of young blood donors — and like-minded locals will mark St. Valentine’s Day in St. Petersburg.

The local branch of the Red Cross has made a tradition out of its blood donation initiative on Valentine’s Day as part of a campaign to encourage blood donation among younger people.

“On Valentine’s Day, we usually join forces with the City Blood Transfusion Center, but this time we have decided to work directly with a hospital because we discovered that the situation there regarding blood supplies is very alarming,” said Asya Galiyeva, a representative of the Red Cross in St. Petersburg who works on the organization’s blood donation projects targeting young people.

“Because the hospital’s blood transfusion laboratory has a rather limited capacity, and because a substantial number of blood donors have already expressed an interest in coming in, we will organize a second round of donations on March 14, when more donors will come and give blood for ill children,” Galiyeva added.

The event is set to take place at the Filatov Children’s Hospital No. 5, located at 154 Bukharestskaya Ulitsa in the south of the city.

Hospitals across the country are struggling with shortages of blood, and St. Petersburg is no exception.

The websites of local charitable organizations are inundated with requests for urgent blood transfusions.

To make matters even more complicated, the State Duma passed amendments to the blood donation law in July 2012 that effectively banned financial compensation for donors. The law came into force on Jan. 21, and the results have already greatly alarmed many doctors, especially in large cities whose hospitals use vast volumes of blood.

Previously, Russian donors typically received about 500 rubles ($17) in compensation for donating blood. By comparison, in many European countries, donors receive only light refreshment or small token gifts.

The Red Cross is currently campaigning for the implementation of these international standards.

The end of the cash payments for donors was intended to enhance the safety of the blood supply, as it is believed that donors who are not interested in monetary compensation will not be interested in concealing any compromising medical information about health conditions that might prevent their blood from being accepted.

“At present, up to 30 percent of first-time blood donations are unusable, as people lie about their health conditions or are, in some cases, unaware of them,” said Vladimir Krasnyakov, chief doctor at the St. Petersburg Blood Transfusion Center.

The changes in the law have attracted strong opposition from both blood donors and medical professionals. Many donors relied on the fee, while doctors have already noticed a sharp decline in blood donations.

During the past few years, the Red Cross in St. Petersburg has accumulated a database of about 2,000 blood donors who are able to respond promptly to requests from hospitals for blood.

“We have seen a rapid rise in demand for blood after the changes in the law, and we immediately distribute any urgent requests from the local clinics via a system of cell phone text messages,” Galiyeva said. “That way, we lose no time.”

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