Donating blood: You can save a life | Western Cape Government

Donating blood: You can save a life

(The Government of South Africa)


Did you know Western Cape hospitals and clinics require approximately 800 units of blood each day?

Blood can’t be artificially manufactured, therefore blood donation services such as the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) relies completely on voluntary blood donors and encourages all eligible donors to donate.

There's an urgent need for more blood donors. The Western Cape has a population of about 5 million people (Census 2011), but less than 1.2% donate blood.

While blood donations can save many lives, the process can be scary if you don’t know all the facts. We tell you what to expect and break down 10 myths about giving blood.

What is a blood donation?

A blood donation is when you volunteer to give your blood to someone who needs it.

Who needs donated blood?

Whether you’re donating blood for yourself, a relative or a stranger, a blood donation is needed when:

  • you’re involved in an accident and lose a lot of blood,
  • you’re living with cancer or had surgery,
  • you’ve had a complicated pregnancy, or
  • a child has a severe case of anaemia.

6 Reasons why you should donate blood

According to WPBTS there are many good reasons to donate blood which include:

1.Blood saves lives

Every unit of blood donated can be separated into its basic parts and used to help improve and save the lives of up to 3 recipients.

2.There’s no substitute

There’s no known substitute for blood and it can’t be replicated due to its complexity.

3.Blood is in short supply

While 75% of our population are potential recipients, less than 1.2% are donors, and only approximately 16 000 donors give blood more than 4 times a year.

4.It's a good cause

Giving doesn’t get much better than this.

5.You could be next

It's not a nice thing to consider, but the fact is that you, a close friend, or a family member could well be the next car accident victim or surgery candidate requiring a transfusion.

6.The process is safe and quick

Sterile, disposable equipment is always used, so there’s no risk of infection. The entire process takes just 30 minutes, after which you can resume your daily activities. Finally, you won’t even miss the one unit (475 ml) of blood donated, because it’s quickly reproduced and replaced by your body.

You can donate blood if you:

  • are between 16 and 65 years old,
  • weigh at least 50kg,
  • medically healthy,
  • lead a safe lifestyle, and
  • love helping others.

What should I expect?

The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) provides a guide to help you understand the process:

  • ​Check that you meet the donor criteria as stipulated above.
  • Eat a substantial meal 3 to 4 hours before heading off to the donation clinic.
  • Increase your fluid intake on the day, both before and after giving blood.
  • Take your ID or donor ID card.
  • Register and fill out a confidential donor questionnaire.
  • The nurse will test your iron levels and blood pressure.
  • The nurse will then insert a needle into your arm and begin the process.


Breaking down the myths

Here are 10 things you may have thought were true about donating blood and the facts.

Myth “I’ll get HIV/Aids when I donate blood.”
Fact  You cannot get HIV/Aids when you donate blood. Health care workers ensure that needles are new and sterile. 

Myth “I can’t donate blood if I have a tattoo, body piercing, ear piercing or permanent make-up applied.”
Fact You can only donate blood six months after you get your piercing, tattoo or permanent make-up.

Myth “I can’t use medication before giving blood.”
Fact It depends on which medication you are using. Always check with the nurse on duty.

Myth “Pregnant women can donate blood.”
Fact Pregnant women can’t donate blood. Nursing mothers can only donate blood six months after the baby’s birth, and only once they have stopped breastfeeding  exclusively.

Myth “I can only donate blood when I’m 18.”
Fact You can donate blood if you’re healthy, weigh at least 50kg and are between the ages of 16 – 65.

Myth “I’ll be in a lot of pain after I’ve donated blood.”
Fact You should not experience any pain or discomfort. If you do please advise the staff on duty.

Myth “Only certain races can donate blood.”
Fact Our province has never used any racial profiling policies for blood donations. You can donate blood as long as you meet the donation criteria.

Myth “I can’t eat before I donate blood.”
Fact You should eat at least three to four hours before you donate blood.

Myth “The donation process takes all day and I may need a day off from work.”
Fact The entire process will take only 30 minutes of your time.

Myth “The healthcare worker will draw a lot of blood and I will be sick after the process.”
Fact You will donate approximately 475ml of blood and should not feel sick after donating blood. If you feel dizzy, you can lie down or sit with your head on your knees.

Where can I donate blood?

Visit any one of the permanent donation clinics to donate blood or to find out more information:

  • 22 Long Street, Cape Town CBD, open Mondays to Fridays from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
  • N1 City Mall, Goodwood, open Mondays to Fridays from 10am to 5:45pm; Saturdays from 9am to 2:45pm, Sundays from 9am to 12:45pm and Public Holidays from 9am to 11:45am.
  • Blue Route Mall, Tokai, open Mondays to Fridays from 10am to 5:45pm; Saturdays from 9am to 2:45pm Sundays closed  and Public Holidays from 9am to 11:45am

Have a look at the alternative clinics on the WPBTS website.

While donors from all blood groups and communities are important, there is a particular need for donors with blood types O to donate regularly as stocks of these are more vulnerable to shortfalls.  There is also a need for more black African people to become blood donors to reflect the ethnic diversity of patients.

For more information, SMS “Blood” to 33507 and WPBTS will call you back with information on where to donate.  You can also call (021) 507 6300 or  email

Don’t forget to “like” WPBTS on Facebook (WP Blood) or follow them on Twitter (@WPBlood)  for interesting facts and blood stock updates.

The new WP Blood App: Donate blood in the Western Cape

The content on this page was last updated on 1 June 2018