The Lack of Syphilis Screening Practices for Blood Donations in Ghana Put Patients at Risk

Millions of people every year are exposed to potentially life-threatening risks from blood donations. While blood transfusions are meant to save a life, when an individual receives unsafe blood, it can have some serious consequences. 

Syphilis can be transferred from blood-to-blood donations since it is a blood-borne infection. If left untreated, this infection can damage the eyes, bones, brain, and aorta. In Ghana, syphilis is a widespread infection, and getting infected with it through blood transfusions is more common than people realize.

Dangerous High Rates of Syphilis Recorded in Blood Donations in Ghana

Based on statistics, blood donations have a high chance of transmitting syphilis to patients who receive infected blood transfusions. Ghana, however, has the highest proportion rate of syphilis-infected blood donations in all sub-Saharan African region.

In a survey from 2014 to 2015, 149 facilities that offer blood transfusions in Ghana have been analyzed to see whether or not they test their donated blood for STIs infections, syphilis to be exact. Based on the results, 48% of these facilities did test their blood samples, but the rest didn’t have such protocols.

In Ghana, there are ten administrative regions, each with its own hospital. But the access to these facilities is not distributed equally. In poorer districts, there are fewer health facilities and less access to adequate blood transfusions.

Despite global recommendations, more than 50% of all the facilities in Ghana that provide blood transfusions, don’t screen their donated blood for syphilis. This common practice is a major health concern and can have serious consequences. 

Why Are Blood Transfusions in Ghana Poorly Regulated?

Each country uses its own techniques for syphilis screening practices depending on the situation, prevalence of the infection, influence, infrastructure, and resource capacity. 

Even though Ghana has access to standard screening syphilis guidelines, they are mostly not followed since it’s very difficult to implement these guidelines locally.

Due to the lack of standard procedures for effective transfusions, this practice is not as efficient and safe as it should be. There are many reasons why this practice is so poorly regulated, and some of the most influential ones are:

  • Under-developed programs
  • Inadequate syphilis screening equipment 
  • Difficulties implementing such practices on the local market
  • Lack of resources

According to the Ministry of Health in Ghana, the program that ensures quality and safety for blood transfusions is under-developed, and most of the health facilities don’t have adequate equipment to carry out testing.

In almost all African countries, including Ghana, many patients use local blood banks to buy whatever is cheaper and in stock. 

But, since testing the blood sample for syphilis requires resources and costs more, facilities are not willing to spend that much if they want to sell these transfusions on the open local market.


Syphilis is a serious infection for many people in Ghana. To avoid transmitting this infection and potential health complications, it’s crucial for all health facilities in Ghana to test their blood before administrating it to patients. But, until this procedure becomes common practice, it’s recommended that individuals ask their transfusions to get tested before they agree to take them. 


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