In a country that faces a shortage of three million units of blood annually, the last thing one needs is misinformation on blood donation, and that’s precisely why an advertisement is in the dock with the Health Ministry.
An advertisement by website 'Carwale,' which provides a platform for car buyers and owners to interact and exchange information, has come under fire for not just being being in poor taste, but also “misleading”.
Explaining the rationale behind the advertisement, Steven Hough, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy Bangalore, had said that it was "an insight on the behaviour of people using ‘approximations’. We have taken this aspect and exaggerated it to deliver the accurate price message for CarWale.” Little did the producers know that this 'exaggeration,' would spell trouble for them.
In the ad, a doctor is seen asking for more units of blood group B as the blood bag runs out. He then goes on to say "B nahin hai? AB hai? Haan chalega," before turning to the patient and saying "blood mai itna unnees-bees chaltha hai."
"That is quite a misleading ad. No blood bank would ever do that and supply a blood group except the one specified. Even in cases of blood types that are universal donor and recipients, there are a lot of technicalities involved in blood transfusion and it is not possible to just 'compromise' with another blood group like that,” says Dr George Oomen with AIDS Society of India (ASI).
According to a report in The Hindu, it was NACO which wrote to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to pull the advertisement off air, as the standards of honest representations were not met.
A health ministry official told The Hindu that the advertisement was yet to be pulled off air even despite ASCI direction. “There are too many inaccuracies surrounding the donation and use of blood components in India. Misinformed advertisements are the last thing we need at this point,” the official said.
It is also mandatory for donated blood to be tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, malaria and syphilis.
For years, doctors have been battling myths about blood donation. Oomen says "Twenty years ago, there was this big fear that donating blood would give you AIDS which is completely false, as there is a clear procedure outlined, and the sterility of the needle holds utmost importance."
Other common myths that have persisted but are slowly dwindling, are that the person's health deteriorates after donating blood or that there is only a limited amount of blood in the body to give away, he says.
"Both those things are untrue although you are advised to rest for a day after donating blood. It takes three to four days to completely replace the red blood cells in the body and new blood is replaced in around eight weeks, which makes it possible to donate once every three months," he adds.
He also says that the only things one needs to donate blood are physical and biological fitness and infection-free blood.
He also adds that "we have come a long way in the past twenty years ago as people in the health sector know their facts now. However, an advertisement like this could easily misguide the general public."
Watch the advertisement here.