Data from the National AIDS Control Organisation(NACO) has revealed that 2,234 persons across India have been infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while getting blood transfusions in the last 17 months alone.
The cases have reportedly been caused by unsafe blood transfusion practices in hospitals. Uttar Pradesh reported the maximum number of cases, with 361, while Gujarat ranks second with 292 cases, Maharashtra with 276 and Delhi with 264 cases, The Hindu reported.
The NACO revealed the data in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query by activist Chetan Kothari.
"The government has been slackening on raising AIDS awareness due to budget cuts. Cases like these keep happening over and over again and no action is taken against erring hospitals and blood banks. This is an extremely serious issue, and the government needs to address it urgently," The Hindu quoted Kothari as saying.
According to the latest annual report, till September 2014, NACO's total blood collection was around 30 lakh units. Nearly 84% of the donated blood units came from Voluntary Blood Donation, which seem to be the source of the problem, says Naresh Goyal, Deputy Director General, NACO.
According to law, it is mandatory to screen donors/donated blood for transmissible infections of HIV, HBV and hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis.
"These are unfortunate cases and we are working towards the goal of zero transmission. Having said that, these numbers must be looked in the context of the scale of our HIV programme. For example, 20 years ago, nearly 8-10% of total HIV infections were coming to transfusions. Currently, that figure is below 1%. We have conquered this route of infection. It is now legally mandatory for every blood bank to screening the units before giving it to a patient," Goyal told The Hindu.
"In some cases, the donor may be in a window period - before his HIV viral load can be detected - when he donates the blood. In such cases, when screened, the blood sample shows a false negative," the daily quoted him as saying.
According to NACO's 2015 annual report, the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) in India was estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011. Nearly 86% of these patients are in the 15-49 age-group.