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The Prevalance of HIV?? How safe is our blood supply?
Dec 21, 2002

Hi, I am very concerned about the accuracy of HIV screening in donated blood. first of all I am aware that it takes 3-6 months for HIV to develope in the blood. Therefore, I am curious to how the Amreican Red Cross can reassure that blood is safe. I understand that they do a different test than the standard antibody test. I have been told that they do a NAT test which is supposed to close the window period from 3-6 months for detection to 10 days. Is this true and is it effective. If so why havent standard HIV tests been replaced by this procedure. I am very skeptical about the blood supply in the United States and (God forbid) I ever need to get a transfusion I would like to feel confident that the blood I am getting is not contaminated. I would appreciate some information in this situation. Thank you very much.

Response from Dr. Dezube

The United States blood supply is probably the safest blood supply in the world. Although this response is probably not the place for a lengthy debate over it, the Blood Banks of America have initiated a whole series of tests to ensure its safety. Much more details are available in a New England Journal Article on the subject entitled "Transfusion Medicine" (Feb. 11, 1999; page 438-446). In that excellent review, the figure which is given is that the risk of getting HIV infection is somewhere between 1 in 200,000 and 1 in 2 million. This is an EXTREMELY LOW risk. You also need to put this risk in perspective. Each and every time you get into a automobile, you expose yourself to a great risk. Although life comes without guarantees, either expressed or implied, if and when you were to need a blood transfusion, you should feel confident in the fact that an incredible amount of effort has gone into making the current blood in the USA as safe as humanly possible.

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