Johannesburg, Sept 20: An Indian-origin South African has become the first person from the African continent to head a global organisation of medicine professionals working for the safety of blood transfusion worldwide.
Ravi Reddy, currently the Chief Operations Officer of the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), will head the International Society for Blood Transfusion (ISBT), headquartered in Amsterdam.
Although Reddy has been credited with transforming the safety of blood donation and transfer in South Africa with its very high incidence of HIV/AIDS, he has insisted that this was a team effort by the staff of SANBS.
He he has served in various capacities for more than three decades after starting out as a volunteer at the age of 16 at SANBS. He subsequently qualified as a medical technologist with an MBA from the University of Natal in South Africa. SANBS lauded Reddy's appointment as a particularly significant one.
"Mr Reddy has played a key role in South Africa's high level of blood safety," said Raju from SANBS, who earlier this year said in a TV interview that there had been only one confirmed case of HIV caused by blood transfusion out of nine million units of blood donated in the past decade.
In 2004, there was a huge outcry when it emerged that blood donated by the majority Black community in South Africa was being discarded due to the risk associated with the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in that community.
Reddy had spearheaded a campaign to ensure stringent testing and also education among donors to turn this around. He cited the highly-respected international status of SANBS as having contributed largely to his appointment.
"I would not have been considered for this position if it were not for SANBS' professionalism and reputation for excellence," Reddy said, adding that receiving this vote of confidence from his peers internationally was humbling.
He represented the African region on the board of the ISBT between 2006 and 2012, and is also a member of the Working Party on Transfusion and Transmissible Infections. He has presented and published a large number of scientific papers. The ISBT, now with 100 member countries, was established in 1935 as a platform for exchanging knowledge and advancing the blood-transfusion practice.