Indians Beware: Blood Transfusion Could Give You the Deadly Virus

Over the past few decades AIDS (Acquired immuno- deficiency Syndrome) has been spreading like wildfire across the globe. Despite large scale efforts, blood transfusion still remains the major source of HIV infections not just in India but worldwide.

However the percentage varies substantially between high-income and low-income countries. In other words people in low income countries appear more prone to this ailment. Lately National Aids Control Organization (Naco) has disclosed that 2,234 Indians have contracted HIV while receiving blood transfusions in hospitals in the past seventeen months.

Even  though India’s rate of HIV infection through  blood transfusion has plummeted and now stands below 1%.yet India currently has approximately 2.09 million people living with HIV/Aids. These figures cannot be ignored by any means.

There are several crucial factors responsible for this. One, even though the government sets standards for blood safety, these are often violated or else poorly implemented. For instance it is mandatory that all donors should be tested for HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis, even government empanelled blood banks do not always follow procedure.  Two, India has annual shortfall of approximately several million blood units.

Since blood is rare and often a life-saving substance,   people in need simply accept any blood that comes their way. Three, a large number of donors are poor and do so only for money. They do not bother to ascertain whether or not they are affected by any disease.

Also we cannot overlook the “window period”   where a donor infected with HIV does not test positive for weeks. There are tests that can reduce this window period to seven days but these are expensive and not carried out in all the states.

Ironically, even though India has inadequate supplies of blood, it is often transfused unnecessarily. This not only exposes patients to the risk of HIV, hepatitis and other ailments but also reduces the availability of blood for patients for whom transfusion is essential.

To overcome this rapid spread of the HIV virus, potential donors should be screened, their medical histories examined. They should be counseled even before they donate blood, to ensure they don’t carry any infections. The blood should then be retested by banks to keep deadly diseases at bay.

The government should make it compulsory to accept blood donations only from regular, voluntary, unpaid low-risk blood donors, and that too after a careful assessment of their suitability to donate unnecessary transfusions must be avoided. Over the last two years, the HIV/Aids program has witnessed massive  stock deficiencies of essential drugs and testing kits due to bureaucratic delays and  other malpractices. At this juncture India needs to pull up its socks and launch a  vigorous  fight against HIV .

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