The country’s blood donors are being called upon to help support the Olympic Games effort. The Health Ministry’s Blood Donation Commission has initiated a special operational plan to meet increased needs for blood during the Olympics and Paralympics. To mark World Blood Donor Day on June 14, the authorities launched a public appeal for people to come forward. According to the president of the commission, Constantina Politi, every year about 600,000 units of blood are required to meet the needs of Greek patients. «In 2003, we managed to collect 617,000 units. Our goal for the next couple of months, when millions of visitors will be in the country, is to secure not only the 50,000 units we need every month to meet national needs, but another 15,000-20,000 units for every month,» she explained. The commission is appealing to blood donors to declare whether they are willing to contribute to the effort to increase blood bank reserves in order to meet possible emergencies during the Games. «By April 30 we had received 11,000 positive responses to our appeal and we hope to eventually receive up to 20,000… We are trying to carry out a colossal task but we are optimistic that we will succeed in meeting our goals,» Politi said. «The Greek Red Cross blood donation association is doing what it can to find blood donors to meet increased requirements during the Games,» said Nikos Horiatellis, the association’s president and also head of the union of blood donors’ associations. He believes there are about 350,000 blood donors in Greece, who meet about 38 percent of the country’s annual needs. The rest is donated by patients’ relatives or friends, the armed services and the Swiss Red Cross. «Two in 10 hospital patients need 10-40 units of blood,» said Horiatellis. «For blood to be readily available, 10 percent of the population need to donate blood at least once a year,» he said. Conditions for donation Every healthy man and woman aged 18-65 can donate from 400-450 cubic centimeters of blood at a time. Those under the age of 18 need their parents’ written consent. Men can donate blood as often as three to four times a year and women two to three times. Donors should be rested and should not have consumed alcohol or taken medicine – not even aspirin – for a few days prior to donating blood. Women must not donate blood during pregnancy, lactation or for six-12 months after giving birth. Nor should people suffering from or infected with malaria, hepatitis, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes mellitus, syphilis, hypertension, heart disease or any other serious illness.