Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

The History of Blood Transfusion in Sub-Saharan Africa

By William H. Schneider

“This is an impressive work.… The reader feels comfortable in the hands of a mature and competent expert who has followed the history of blood transfusion for years, and has indeed already contributed important articles on the subject.”

Myron Echenberg, McGill University

“Motivated by the desire to contextualize the relationship between HIV/AIDS and blood transfusion in sub-Saharan Africa, Schneider seeks to historicize the policies and practices of giving and receiving blood in this region…. This book provides a thought-provoking introductory platform that will stimulate further studies.”

African Affairs

“With numerous charts and graphs, images and analysis of recruitment posters, and detailed national case studies (featuring the Belgian Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Senegal), this initial examination of blood transfusion in sub-Saharan Africa over the twentieth century is an important contribution to the history of global health as it intersects with the African past.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“The impact of transfusions in colonial Africa on the emergence of AIDS has not been told. Schneider’s book skillfully fills this void with his firsthand investigations of the history of transfusions in Africa. The book provides a new and critical framework for understanding how transfusing blood may have catapulted simian viruses from remote places in Africa to pandemic AIDS status.”

Preston A. Marx, Professor and Chair, Division of Microbiology at Tulane National Primate Research Center

This first extensive study of the practice of blood transfusion in Africa traces the history of one of the most important therapies in modern medicine from the period of colonial rule to independence and the AIDS epidemic. The introduction of transfusion held great promise for improving health, but like most new medical practices, transfusion needed to be adapted to the needs of sub-Saharan Africa, for which there was no analogous treatment in traditional African medicine.

This otherwise beneficent medical procedure also created a “royal road” for microorganisms, and thus played a central part in the emergence of human immune viruses in epidemic form. As with more developed health care systems, blood transfusion practices in sub-Saharan Africa were incapable of detecting the emergence of HIV. As a result, given the wide use of transfusion, it became an important pathway for the initial spread of AIDS. Yet African health officials were not without means to understand and respond to the new danger, thanks to forty years of experience and a framework of appreciating long-standing health risks. The response to this risk, detailed in this book, yields important insight into the history of epidemics and HIV/AIDS.

Drawing on research from colonial-era governments, European Red Cross societies, independent African governments, and directly from health officers themselves, this book is the only historical study of the practice of blood transfusion in Africa.

William H. Schneider is professor emeritus of history and medical humanities at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. He has authored numerous publications on the history of science and medicine, health philanthropy, and global health history.   More info →

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Perspectives on Global Health


Retail price: $34.95, S.
Release date: July 2013
244 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: July 2013
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for The History of Blood Transfusion in Sub-Saharan Africa

“This impressive historical account renders an authoritative account of the the establishment of Transfusion Medicine in sub-Saharan Africa. This book should prove to be a valuable resource for many years to all those interested in the ongoing history of this specialty.”

Morris A. Blajchman, MD, FRCPC, Emeritus Professor, Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University

“This book is a background-primer that can give continuing guidance to changes still taking place in sub-Saharan Africa. Since blood transfusion is a part of so many other medical activities it is also valuable in providing understanding of how those [activities] developed in Africa.”

Paul Schmidt, M.D., Historian for the American Association of Blood Banks and the International Society of Blood Transfusion

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