Is the HIV Case a reality check of blood bank facilities in India?

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When a 23-year old pregnant woman was admitted to a hospital in Tamil Nadu for a normal pre-natal check-up, she was found to be anemic and was advised for a blood transfusion. Little did she know that when she would be leaving the hospital she would not just be a normal pregnant patient but a HIV-pregnant patient.

This woman received a unit of blood from the government hospital bank and was tested positive for HIV and Hepatitis B after transfusion of the blood. This clearly, indicates the lapses in the screening procedures that are followed while collection of blood. The blood that was transferred into the body of this woman was donated on November 30, 2018 and was transfused into the women on December 3, 2018.

It is mandatory in India to do prior testing of all the donated blood units for several transfusion-transmissible diseases, including HIV. The ELISA test which is used to detect the presence of the virus is highly sensitive and reliable in diagnosing the virus. It seems certain that the blood bank failed to test the blood sample prior to collection for HIV. It is a compulsion in India, since 2004 that before a person donates his/her blood, he/she are required to give a written consent to the blood bank that they wish to be informed about a positive test result of such transfusion-transmissible infection. In cases when the donor tests positive for such infections, it is the duty of the blood banks to refer the patient to the designated voluntary counselling and testing centres (VCTCs) for further disclosure.  

This tale took a tragic twist when this 19- year donor found elsewhere that he was an HIV positive and dutifully rushed to hospital on December 10, 2018 to inform them about the positive result. But, it was quite late as his blood had already been transfused a week ago to a pregnant woman. He was not able to bear this trauma committed suicide by eating rat poison on December 30, 2018.

According to several studies, the blood banks in India fail over 50 percent of times in identifying positive donors of such transfusion-transmissible diseases. Hence, this is not the first case of system failure. It is high time for blood banks and NACO to realize that they have still won half a battle by encouraging voluntary blood donation, what they also need to ensure is the safe blood availability

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