China’s Blood Supply Not Being Monitored Properly for HIV, Needs International Assistance, Report Says
China's blood supply still is not being monitored properly for HIV despite the Ministry of Health's efforts to monitor the country's blood collection centers, according to a report released Thursday by New York-based Asia Catalyst, Reuters reports (Blanchard, Reuters, 9/6).
Blood selling practices during the 1990s in China's central Henan province contributed to the spread of HIV, which according to some advocates, affected about one million people. The situation in Henan led officials to pledge reform, and the health ministry has said that it maintains stringent supervision of blood collection centers in the country. According to the ministry of health, it closed about 150 illegal collection and supply agencies nationwide in 2004, the last year for which official figures are available. The health ministry in July also ordered all blood collection centers in the country to install video cameras to ensure that medical staff members are following regulations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/16). Despite the health ministry's efforts, China's State Food and Drug Administration in June discovered fake plasma being used in at least 18 hospitals in northeastern China, Reuters reports (Reuters, 9/6).
According to an Asia Catalyst release, the report examines how the U.S., Canada, France and Japan handled similar outbreaks of HIV transmitted through blood transfusions. Evan Anderson, research consultant for Asia Catalyst and a report co-author, said, "Most countries eventually did three things that solved the problem." He added, "They held investigations, established national compensation funds for victims and centralized control of the blood supply" (Asia Catalyst release, 9/6).
Sara Davis, director of Asia Catalyst and co-author of the report, said, "The demand for blood and blood products is growing in China, and supply is short," adding, "This creates an economic incentive for hospitals to rely on illegal, untested blood donations, and that fuels the spread" of HIV (Reuters, 9/6). Davis said that the system established by the Chinese government to ensure the safety of its national blood supply is inadequate. She added, "China is not alone. ... Most developed countries have dealt with similar AIDS blood scandals, and they should step forward to offer assistance to China" (Asia Catalyst release, 9/6).
According to the report, the Chinese government should establish a compensation fund for people who acquired HIV through blood transfusions and order courts to accept all lawsuits from such individuals. "Hemophiliacs and other patients infected with HIV through blood and blood products provided by hospitals have suffered physical and emotional pain and suffering caused directly by those hospitals and clinics," the reports says, adding, "They are entitled to reparations for these violations of their rights" (Reuters, 9/6).
The report is available online (.pdf).