What You Must Know Before Giving Blood


We know that you would not donate unless you think your blood is safe. However, in order for us to assess all risks that may affect you or a patient receiving a transfusion, it is essential that you answer each question completely and accurately. If you don’t understand a question, ask the blood center staff. All information you provide is confidential.

Knowing what to expect

Most people have uneventful donations and feel good about donating afterward, but some donors may have a lightheaded or dizzy feeling; an upset stomach; a black and blue mark, redness, or pain from the needle; fainting or loss of consciousness and injury from related falls; or very rarely, nerve or artery damage. Blood donation removes iron from the body and may cause or aggravate iron-deficiency anemia.

To determine if you are eligible to donate, we will

  • Ask about your health and travel.
  • Ask about medicines you are taking or have taken.
  • Ask about your risk for infections that can be transmitted by blood – especially AIDS and viral hepatitis.
  • Take your blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.
  • Take a blood sample to be sure your blood count is acceptable.

If you are eligible to donate, we will

  • Clean your arm with an antiseptic. Tell us if you have any skin allergies.
  • Use a new, sterile, disposable needle to collect your blood.

Donor Eligibility – Specific Information

Certain diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis, can be spread through sexual contact and enter your bloodstream. We will ask specific questions about sexual contact.

What do we mean by “sexual contact?”

The words “have sexual contact with” and “sex” are used in some of the questions we will ask you, and apply to any of the activities below, whether or not a condom or other protection was used:

  • Vaginal sex (contact between penis and vagina)
  • Oral sex (mouth or tongue on someone’s vagina, penis, or anus)
  • Anal sex (contact between penis and anus)

HIV/AIDS Risk Behaviors

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It is spread mainly by sexual contact with an infected person OR by sharing needles or syringes used by an infected person for injecting drugs.


  • Have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test.
  • Have EVER used needles to take any drugs not prescribed by your doctor.
  • Are a male who has had sexual contact with another male IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS.
  • Have EVER taken money, drugs, or other payment for sex.
  • Have had sexual contact IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS with anyone described above.
  • Have had syphilis or gonorrhea IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS.
  • Have been in juvenile detention, lockup, jail, or prison for more than 72 consecutive hours IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS.
  • Have EVER been diagnosed with the Ebola virus infection.


Your blood can transmit infections, including HIV/AIDS, even if you feel well and all your tests are normal. This is because even the best tests cannot detect the virus for a period of time after you are infected.


If you think you may be at risk for HIV/AIDS or any other infection, do not donate simply to get a test. ASK us where you can be tested outside the blood center.

The following symptoms can be present before an HIV test turns positive:

  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph glands
  • Sore throat
  • Rash

DO NOT donate if you have these symptoms!

Travel To or Birth in Other Countries

Blood donor tests may not be available for some infections that are found only in certain countries. If you were born in, have lived in, or visited certain countries, you may not be eligible to donate.


To protect patients, your blood is tested for several types of hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, and other infections. If your blood tests positive, it will not be given to a patient. There are times when your blood is not tested. If this occurs, you may not receive any notification. You will be notified about any positive test result which may disqualify you from donating in the future. The blood center will not release your test results without your written permission unless required by law (example: to the health department).

We maintain a confidential list of people who may be at risk for spreading transfusion-transmitted diseases. By continuing this process, you consent to be entered in this confidential list of deferred donors if you are at risk for spreading such diseases. When required, we report donor information, including test results, to health departments, military medical commands, and regulatory agencies. Donation information may also be used confidentially for research related to blood safety.


We may contact you at any phone number or e-mail address you provide, including by automated telephone call or text, regarding your blood donation, future blood donations, and other opportunities to support the American Red Cross mission. You may choose not to provide a particular phone number or e-mail address if you do not want us to use it for these purposes.


We will ask you to confirm information that we have in your computer record to ensure we have the most updated information. You will be asked to confirm all of your demographic information, including your gender. This will ensure that the information we have is current and that you are asked the appropriate questions.


Legacy Doc No: 15.4.fs402 v-4.3