China’s Health Ministry To ‘Severely Punish’ People Responsible for Unsafe Blood Sales; 25 People Receive HIV-Positive Blood Through Transfusions
China's Ministry of Health earlier this week announced new rules that will "severely punish those responsible" for collecting and distributing untested blood that leads to people becoming infected with bloodborne diseases such as HIV through subsequent transfusions, Reuters India reports. The rules -- which will take effect in March and are intended to enforce a 1998 ban on blood sales and also will make collection centers responsible for the safety of donated blood -- come after several hospital patients tested HIV-positive after receiving sold blood (Reuters India, 12/6). An HIV-positive Chinese man sold blood 15 times without being tested for the virus at the Central Blood Bank of Dehui City -- in China's Jilin province -- from January 2003 to June 2004, and his blood was given to 25 people through transfusions, the China Daily reports. The health bureau of Changchun, China, which has authority in Dehui, began investigating the blood bank in October 2005 after six recipients of blood transfusions donated by the bank died. Bureau officials diagnosed the man, identified as Song, as HIV-positive on Oct. 20 and found that at least 18 of the 25 people who received his blood contracted the virus, and three of them have died (Zhang, China Daily, 12/5). Six health officials in Dehui -- including the director and deputy director of the city's health bureau -- were either placed on probation or removed from leadership posts by the Chinese government, and local officials have detained 11 workers at the bank in connection with the investigation (Xinhuanet, 12/3). In addition, Xinhua News Agency reported that 19 HIV-positive people in Heilongjiang province have filed a lawsuit alleging that they contracted the virus through blood provided by a hospital (Reuters India, 12/6). Hundreds of thousands of people in China in the early and mid-1990s contracted HIV through unsafe blood collection procedures. Although the country outlawed blood sales in 1998 and reduced the number of blood collection organizations operating in the country, about 350 such groups currently operate and allegedly remain motivated by profit (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/1). The new health ministry rules also will ban blood sales for stem cell research trials (Reuters India, 12/6).
New HIV Case Estimate Lower, Health Ministry Official Says
The Chinese government's unreleased estimate of the number of HIV cases in the country -- based on 2004 screenings of groups at "high risk" of contracting the virus -- is lower than the 2003 estimate of 840,000 people, Hao Yang, deputy director of disease control for the health ministry, said, the South China Morning Post reports. Chinese government officials said the assessment is being verified by World Health Organization and UNAIDS, but UNAIDS said Chinese officials have not yet finalized the report (South China Morning Post, 12/5). Bates Gill, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an expert on China, last month said that the government might be concealing new estimates for the number of HIV-positive people in the country because they are lower than previously publicized figures and could erode the country's credibility (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/2). According to the Morning Post, an unnamed government official said that although the estimate still could be changed, it might be up to 20% less than the 2003 estimate (South China Morning Post, 12/5). The figure is based on modeling techniques and the result of a cooperative effort between China, WHO and UNAIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/2). Hao said the figure is more accurate than the 2003 assessment (South China Morning Post, 12/5).