Developing Nations’ Tainted Blood Supplies Account for 10% of HIV Cases in Those Countries
While most developed nations have implemented a "zero tolerance" policy regarding HIV contamination of their blood supplies, 10% of all HIV cases in developing countries result from transfusions of HIV-infected blood, according to a study published in the Feb. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Reuters Health reports. Study co-author Dr. Charles Bennett of Northwestern University and colleagues examined 20 years of blood safety records, testing standards and legislative histories of several developed nations, including Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and the United States, and several developing nations, including China, India, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam. "In the developed countries I think the blood supply situation is well handled," Bennett said, but he added that "in the developing countries it's a completely different story." According to the study, "cutting-edge technology" in developed nations has made the risk of HIV transmission through transfused blood "extremely low," after "many mistakes" of blood safety organizations in the 1980s led to lawsuits. In developing nations, however, "hundreds of thousands" of people are infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C through blood transfusions because 45% of all donated blood is not screened for such diseases. Unsafe blood stores -- which, for example, accounted for 95% of India's blood supply in 1996 -- are due in part to paid blood donors, who provide a "major portion" of the blood supply in developing nations and have a financial incentive to donate frequently regardless of the quality of their health, the study shows. Developing countries cannot develop the infrastructure for a safe blood supply "on their own," according to Bennett, who encouraged countries with a safe blood supply to "reach out" to and "partne[r]" with developing nations with contaminated blood supplies (Mozes, Reuters Health, 2/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.