8,983 people acquired HIV infection due to blood transfusion in past five years
The infection rate and mortality attributed to HIV is said to be on the decline in the country. However, as per the information provided by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) to an applicant who filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, blood transfusion has led to 629 people getting HIV infection between April and October 2014 in the country with a cumulative figure of 8,983 people acquiring HIV infection due to blood transfusion in the past 5 years. The reply shows that about 1,000 people contracted the human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus in Maharashtra during the last 5 years. Amongst other states, high figures of blood transfusion related HIV have been reported from Uttar Pradesh (1,099) and Gujarat (1,658). The information is based on data collected from Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC) through voluntary disclosure of patients.
Such a frightening figure indicates poor screening of blood resulting into transfusion of infected blood to the victims. While questions have been raised regarding the working of the government agencies entrusted with the fight against HIV at the state and the Centre, the figures themselves have been challenged. It has been argued that the voluntary disclosure may not be true. The blood banks should be able to detect each and every case of HIV and exclude such samples from being used for transfusion. The Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS) and State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) seem to shift the onus on each other in respect of ensuring that necessary precautions are taken by the blood banks.
Experts have suggested that a possible cause for such infected blood passing through the test could be the type of testing done. Currently, the blood sample are tested by the enzyme-linked immune-sorbent assay test (ELISA) which detects HIV antibodies that takes a minimum of three months to show in the blood. As a result, if the donor is someone who has recently contracted HIV, the results through ELISA may be negative and the blood end up being transfused to a recipient who is caught unaware.
Across the nation, there are nearly 11 lakh blood donations annually, but such levels of infection, if the statistics are true, are not acceptable. Advanced tests such as nuclear acid testing (NAT) can detect HIV after about a week of getting the infection but is expensive and very few government hospitals have the facility. Negligence in conducting the test and the fact that rarely the donor is informed about him being infected are said to be the contributory causes to the spread of infection.