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Thousands in India Claimed to be Infected with HIV through Blood Transfusions

A recently published article in an Indian newspaper claims that thousands of civilians living across the country have contracted HIV through blood transfusions, in less than two years; however, a national AIDS organization is refuting these claims.

A recently published article in an Indian newspaper claims that thousands of civilians living across the country have contracted HIV through blood transfusions in less than two years.

In response to a Right to Information (RTI) query by activist Chetan Kothari, the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), an organization which has been responsible for ensuring the safety of blood in healthcare facilities across the country, released information revealing that in 17 months, 2,234 individuals nationwide had contracted an HIV infection.

According to The Hindu, these infections occurred as a result of contaminated blood transfusions, although all blood donors as well as accepted blood donations are required by law to be screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C, malaria, and syphilis. The article also stated that, according to the activist, “No action [was] taken against hospitals or blood banks,” in response to these findings.

As a result of these claims, NACO released a statement in which it explicitly stated that although this number was reported in the RTI response, the mode of transmission of these infections was self-reported by the infected individuals. The statement noted that these claims are “not further corroborated by any scientific means to confirm that transmission is indeed due to blood transfusion.” It was confirmed that under the State Food and Drug Authority, all blood banks test donated blood for the aforementioned communicable diseases. Furthermore, the NACO statement affirms, “all donors are selected after examination by a medical doctor.”

Nonetheless, it was noted that there exists a window period during which no test can detect these diseases; however, this can only account for infection transmission to a limited number of individuals. Those individuals who are perceived to fall under the “high risk” groups are advised against donating blood, to ward off any threat of HIV transmission through a contaminated donation.

According to the most recent NACO Annual HIV Report, 2,090,000 individuals living in India had HIV/AIDS in 2011. Of these, 86% were between the ages of 15 and 49, while 7% were under 15 years of age. The number of HIV infections in India fell from 0.41% of the total adult population in 2001 to 0.27% in 2011. Likewise, the number of infected individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 also fell from 0.30% of the total youth population in 2001, to 0.11% in 2011.

HIV infection through blood transfusion accounts for only 1% of total cases in India.

NACO, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to provide prevention services in the forms of:

  • A total of 65 HIV reference laboratories accredited under the CDCNACO Lab Systems
  • Targeted interventions for high risk groups
  • Needle exchange programs, including ones for drug injection users
  • Prevention programs for migrants, rural residents at high risk for infection, sexually active individuals, and parent/child transmission
  • Blood transfusion services
  • Counseling and testing services

Individuals with questions should visit the NACO website: http://www.naco.gov.in/NACO/.