Over 2,000 people have reported to have been infected with HIV while getting blood transfusion in the past 17 months in the country, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) on Wednesday said, refuting reports, based on its RTI reply, that contaminated blood is spreading the disease as “factually incorrect”.
In reply to an RTI query filed by Mumbai-based activist Chetan Kothari, NACO said a total of 2,234 cases involving patients getting infected with HIV while getting blood transfusion were reported across the country within a period of 17 months.
The number is highest for Uttar Pradesh where 361 such cases were reported while Gujarat came second with 292 cases, Maharashtra third with 276 and New Delhi fourth with 264 such cases, Kothari told PTI.
Kothari said the actual figure might be “double or triple” of the official data. “The information provided in response to the RTI query refers to information on self-reported transmission of HIV recorded by counsellors from clients attending Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC). This is further not corroborated by any scientific means to confirm that transmission is indeed due to blood transfusion,” NACO said.
The report indicating that contaminated blood is spreading HIV in India is “factually incorrect” since all blood banks have to mandatorily test all collected blood units for five transmission transmitted infections including HIV, HBV, HCV, Syphilis and Malaria, it said.
The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) said despite the best testing facilities, there still exists a window period during which an infection cannot be detected by any test, even nucleic acid test (NAT).
“Blood transfusion account for less than one per cent of total HIV infection and no increasing trend in HIV transmission through blood are reflected in ICTC data,” NACO said.Kothari said there are two kinds of test for ascertaining whether the blood is HIV positive or negative. The result of the first test takes around 60 days to come while the second one, which gives results in seven days, is very expensive.
“There are private labs which also conduct these tests but they charge hefty amounts. Therefore, it is not possible for poor people to get it done. “The central and the state government need to coordinate and bring out a measure so that these things are made available to the poor,” he said.
He said that in the RTI reply, there are states like Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim which have zero reports. “I have been to one or two states and there is lack of hospitals with good facilities. That is why such incidents have not taken place there,” he said.
As per India HIV Estimation Report 2015, 21.17 lakh people are living with HIV. India has the third largest number of people living with HIV in the world and the other two countries having higher numbers are South Africa (68 lakhs) and Nigeria (34 lakhs), Union Health Minister J P Nadda had recently said.