In the last 17 months alone, 2,234 persons across India have been infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while getting blood transfusions. The maximum number of such cases — 361 — was reported from Uttar Pradesh due to unsafe blood transfusion practices in hospitals.
Just last week, a three-year-old boy from Assam’s Kamrup district, admitted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital for treatment of burn injuries, is reported to have contracted HIV due to transfusion of contaminated blood.
Gujarat ranks second Gujarat with 292 cases, Maharashtra with 276 and Delhi with 264 cases are the other leading States where patients have been transfused unsafe blood.
The data was revealed by National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in response to a Right to Information query by activist Chetan Kothari.
Government in denial “The government has been slackening on raising AIDS awareness due to budget cuts. Cases like these keep happening over and over again and no action is taken against erring hospitals and blood banks. This is an extremely serious issue, and the government needs to address it urgently,” said Mr Kothari.
In India, NACO has been primarily responsible for ensuring provision of safe blood. According to law, it is mandatory to screen donors/donated blood for transmissible infections of HIV, HBV and hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis.
According to the latest annual report, till September 2014, NACO’s total blood collection was around 30 lakh units. Nearly 84 per cent of the donated blood units came from Voluntary Blood Donation, which seem to be the source of the problem, says Naresh Goyal, Deputy Director General, NACO.
Contaminated blood spreads HIV in India
“These are unfortunate cases and we are working towards the goal of zero transmission. Having said that, these numbers must be looked in the context of the scale of our HIV programme. For example, 20 years ago, nearly 8-10 per cent of total HIV infections were coming to transfusions. Currently, that figure is below 1 per cent. We have conquered this route of infection. It is now legally mandatory for every blood bank to screening the units before giving it to a patient.
“In some cases, the donor may be in a window period — before his HIV viral load can be detected — when he donates the blood. In such cases, when screened, the blood sample shows a false negative,” Mr. Goyal said.
According to NACO’s 2015 annual report, the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) in India was estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011. Nearly 86 per cent of these patients are in the 15-49 age-group.
Children less than 15 years of age accounted for 7 per cent or 1.45 lakh of all infections in 2011 while 39 per cent (8.16 lakh) were among women.