A dozen thalassaemia patients get HIV infection through govt blood banks annually

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Kolkata, INDIA: EVERY year, nearly a dozen thalassaemia patients are infected with the dreaded HIV virus at State-run blood banks in the city. This shocking revelation came to light following a survey conducted by the Nilratan Sarkar Medical College Hospital blood bank last year.

The study was undertaken by the Thalassaemia Children Day Care Centre attached to the NRS hospital blood bank. A total of 195 children suffering from thalassaemia, who received periodic blood transfusions at the medical college blood bank, were monitored. At the end of the year, during which the children got 909 units of blood, 12 of them — about six per cent — were found to have been infected with HIV.

The cause of the infection was attributed to lack of proper infrastructure and a total disregard for blood transfusion safety norms, according to the study.

Health department officials admitted that the ratio of thalassaemic children getting infected with HIV through blood transfusions is around the same at blood banks in other medical college hospitals, including central blood banks.

Newsline met some thalassaemia patients who became HIV-positive after getting blood from State-run blood banks recently. Choton Roy, 14, was infected during a blood transfusion from the NRS Hospital blood bank on November 24, 2004. A resident of Howrah, Choton’s father — the only earning member of the family — works at a local shop.

Shalini Bose, 22, a resident of Budge Budge,was found to have been infected with the HIV virus on March 18, 2006. She too had been receiving blood transfusions from the NRS blood bank.

“Thalassaemia itself is traumatic for the children as well as their family members. Apart from the physical pain of blood transfusions every alternate week, a lot of medicines are administered to the child. For the parents, it is a race against time. Imagine being HIV-positive over all that, for no fault of theirs,” said Sailen Ghosh , general secretary of the Thalassaemia and AIDS Prevention Society, a city-based NGO, working with such children.

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