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A man donates blood in Shanghai, April 3, 2017. [Photo/VCG]

Supply generally meets demand, official says, but more is needed

Blood donations in China have steadily increased over the past 20 years, resulting in a general balance between supply and demand, China"s top health authority said on Tuesday.

The number of blood donations in China topped 5.9 million between January and May, a rise of 3.6 percent over the same period last year, Zhou Changqiang, a deputy chief for medical administration and supervision at the National Health Commission, said at a news conference.

The total amount of blood acquired during the first five months of the year was 2,065 metric tons, a rise of 5.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

The number of blood donations in China was 328,000 in 1998, the year a system was established for blood donations from healthy civilians for clinical use, Zhou said. Last year, the number was more than 14 million, he said.

"In general, blood donated in China has managed to meet demand for clinical use," Zhou said. "But a gap can occur at peak times, or in certain areas."

As the supply of blood has increased, its safety has also improved, he said, adding that transmission of serious infectious viruses, such as HIV, through blood transfusions has essentially been eliminated in China because of improved testing technologies.

Liu Jiang, director of the Beijing Red Cross Blood Center, said blood donations at the center must follow strict procedures to ensure safety.

"Our facilities for blood testing are in line with international standards," he said. "I have visited many other big blood centers in other cities, and automatic tests are carried out in all the centers to ensure quality."

In cases when demand for blood exceeds available supplies, the center gives priority to emergency rescue and pregnant women, he said.

Xiao Qiang, a Beijing resident with a rare blood type - Rh negative - who is also a blood donation volunteer for the center, said he keeps his mobile phone on 24 hours a day, so staff from the blood center can reach him in case of an emergency in which his blood is needed.

"I even asked for leave from work to donate," he said. "I can postpone work, but life cannot wait."

With implementation of the universal second-child policy in China, together with rising demand for medical services from the public, the need for blood transfusions is expected to continue upward, Zhou of the health commission said.

The commission will increase public awareness so more people will donate blood to save lives, he said.

Meanwhile, the commission will try to make use of the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence, to improve management of blood and promote efficiency in its use, he said.