Global initiative in preventing HIV/AIDS

Special Correspondent

Quiz on blood donation and skit on Voluntary Blood Donation by Club 25 members to be held

Under the Club 25 campaign school-leavers pledge to give blood 25 times by the age of 25

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The observance of World Aids Day in Thiruvananthapuram on December 1 this year will highlight the prominent role played by the Club 25 programme in preventing HIV/AIDS at the global level.

A series of events, including a panel discussion by Club 25 members and blood transfusion officers on ‘The role of Students in promoting the concept of Club 25 in Educational Institutions’ and ‘The importance of Safe Blood Transfusion in preventing HIV/AIDS,’ are being organised. Quiz on blood and blood donation and a skit on Voluntary Blood Donation by Club 25 members will also be held.

The event is being organised by Terumo Penpol in association with the All Kerala Blood Donor’s Society and Club 25 at the Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan with the objective of encouraging youth to make responsible choices, maintain a healthy lifestyle and donate blood regularly.

Safe blood

According to the organisers, a sufficient, safe blood supply is a key part of an effective healthcare system and essential for disease prevention. The lack of safe blood has a severe impact on the mortality rate in a society. Unsafe transfusion and the lack of access to safe blood have a particularly severe impact on women with complications of pregnancy and in trauma victims and children with severe life-threatening diseases. However, much progress has been made in the past years in increasing the supply of safe blood.

The basis for an adequate supply of safe blood is a pool of healthy, regular, voluntary donors who give blood without financial or other reward. Research has shown that donors who give blood of their own free will without the expectation of payment are the ‘safest’ donors.

The Club 25 campaign has today emerged as a major global initiative in voluntary blood donation. Under the campaign, school leavers pledge to give blood 25 times by the age of 25, while also committing themselves to lead healthy lives to ensure that their blood would be beneficial to patients. Initiated in Zimbabwe, Club 25 groups have served as examples for several other countries facing blood safety problems in Africa and Asia.

The spread of HIV in the 1980s caused blood transfusion services across the world to seek new strategies to collect safe blood. In 1989, Zimbabwe started targeting a new pool of low-risk donors: students aged 16-19. The first of these students became so committed to the venture that when they completed their schooling they decided to create the Pledge 25 Club, promising to make at least another 25 blood donations before the age of 25.

Keeping them safe

The initiative was particularly successful in keeping the young people protected from HIV and other illnesses since part of their pledge was that they would maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to give safe blood. Indeed, statistics show that HIV infection rates among blood donors fell from 4.45 per cent in 1989 to 0.61 per cent in 2001, in a country where the infection rate in the sexually active population was 33.7 per cent at the time.

The model has now been adopted in several other countries: Haiti, India, Indonesia, Malawi, the Philippines and Uganda.

The Club 25 units in Thiruvananthapuram City had started the campaign with the theme ‘Blood, a Gift for Life’ in their colleges. Voluntary blood donor units have been set up in five colleges in Thiruvananthapuram.

Today, Pledge 25 clubs are active in 11 institutions in Thiruvananthapuram. As well as promoting healthy lifestyles and setting a good example to other young people, the peer groups have had positive effects on the members’ personal development. The theme for World AIDS Day 2007 and 2008 is ‘Leadership.’ The theme is being promoted with the slogan, ‘Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.’

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