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HIV Contaminated Blood in Africa: Unlikely? Undiscovered? Unreported?

Here’s another article about HIV contaminated blood supplies, this time in the Philippines. The article doesn’t say if donors in the country are paid for their blood. Payment can give rise to people more likely to be infected, such as intravenous drug users, coming forward to give blood, sometimes frequently. But there is a shortage of blood at the moment because of a high and rising number of dengue cases. The number of contaminated units has doubled in the last three years. HIV rates have also recently increased by 63%.

It isn’t only receiving blood that can carry a risk of HIV infection, though the probability of transmission through contaminated blood from a transfusion is very high. Those donating can also be infected and this phenomenon is said to have contributed over 10% to China’s current prevalence. Infection occurred after plasma was removed from blood and the remaining fluid was injected back into donors. Infected donors can then return and their donated blood and blood products will infect recipients.

In Las Vegas, unsafe injection practices at an endoscopy clinic were discovered to have transmitted hepatitis C to at least eight patients. A study concluded that patients were ‘most likely’ infected by the reuse of single use anesthetic vials. 50,000 people were notified in the following public health inquiry. The authors of the study noted difficulties in detecting and investigating such outbreaks.

We don’t hear about such incidents in African countries. Is that because they don’t occur, because no one is looking for them or because they remain unreported when discovered? Investigations are possible, though UNAIDS seem to be completely opposed to them. But it’s not as if African health services are in any way unlikely to experience such incidents, quite the contrary.

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