Blood Donation and Hepatitis C
Last updated: March 2022
Can I donate blood if I have hepatitis C?
If you currently have hepatitis C, you are not permitted to donate blood. This is because the hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood and anyone who would receive your blood would be exposed to the virus.
Presently, the Red Cross does not accept blood donations from anyone who has ever tested positive for hepatitis C. This regulation was put into place before there were medical cures and this ruling may be reviewed and changed in the future. However, at present time, testing positive for hepatitis C at any time in your life prevents you from qualifying to donate blood, even if you never became ill or jaundiced.
Can I donate blood if I might have hepatitis C?
If you think you might have been exposed to hepatitis C or that you might be infected with the hepatitis C virus, it is important for you to be tested as soon as possible. Though hepatitis C does not result in death, the virus can cause long-term or even permanent problems the longer it lives inside the body. If you are not sure where or how to get tested, you can contact your local clinic or emergency room and they will provide you with information including testing locations and their contact information. If you have and want to use your health insurance, you may choose to visit their website or to contact the assistance number on your insurance card to find a local location that is covered by your individual insurance policy. If you are concerned about the cost of testing, your local clinic or hospital can give you the contact information of sliding scale or free facilities where testing can be done within your budget.
I don’t know if I have hepatitis C?, Can I still donate blood.
If you are not certain whether you have hepatitis C, you may wish to contact your local hospital or clinic to schedule to be tested. However, if you find yourself at a blood donation station and you are unsure what to do, you have a few options. First, you can opt out of donating blood. If you are with others, you can tell them that you do not feel well or that needles make you nervous as an excuse to not participate without telling others your concerns. Second, when you complete the blood donation form, there are boxes that you check as you answer questions. You can choose to check a box that indicates that you are uncertain whether you are healthy enough to donate. If that feels too revealing for you to do, knowing that the blood donation volunteer will see, you have one final option. At the end of the form, there are two stickers with bar codes on them. One says that yes, you do wish to have your blood used for donation and the other that says you do not. You will be instructed to peel them both from the page and place the one you want used on your form and to throw the other away. No one on site will know which you chose and, in either case, your blood will be drawn. This allows you the privacy of your choice while still alerting the Red Cross to concerns about your blood.
Donated blood is always checked
Before any donated blood is sent to blood banks or used for medical procedures, it is all tested. The testing checks for numerous different concerns, ranging from HIV/AIDS to West Nile Virus, as well as for any strains of hepatitis or any contamination that may have occurred at the testing or screening facilities. The goal is to make sure that any patient who receives donated blood does not have to worry about being exposed to illnesses or infections.
In addition, the Red Cross collects contact information from each donor, which is correlated to the bar code placed on the donation itself. If the blood tests positive for any infections or diseases, the donor is notified right away. They are also offered counseling services through the Red Cross. This means that, if you have donated blood and you do have hepatitis C, the Red Cross will reach out to you to let you know through a phone call and/or letter.
If you find out after you have donated that you do, in fact, have a disease or infection that makes your blood unusable, the Red Cross will have provided you with a form at the time of donation. That form includes a contact phone number, which you should call to alert them to this medical information, as soon as you become aware of it. If you cannot find your form and that phone number, the internet or the Red Cross website can direct you to it.1-4