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HIV INTO RED CROSS BLOOD SUPPLY!?
Apr 14, 2004

Dr. Bob,

Your answers are quite extraordinary for the stress relief of others' grief. My question is simple.

If there is appx. a 3 month window for HIV testing to be efficient, how is the Red Cross Blood supply not contaminated? I think anyone could make a "good faith" blood donation during the window time (not knowing they are positive), and since tests do not pick up postive results during the window, Red Cross testing would not pick up the postitive results.

Your thoughts and answer?

Keep up the good work, a donation from me is on the way!

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

Transmission of HIV (and other transfusion-transmitted diseases) has diminished steadily over the years as a multilayer safety system has been developed and implemented. You can contact the Red Cross directly for a detailed description of the current policy and procedures related to blood safety. I'll mention briefly the two major layers currently in place.

Layer 1: Blood Donor Screening

This layer alone should virtually eliminate "good faith" blood donations from most folks who might have an unrecognized bloodborne illness. Donors are required to read information about blood safety and are encouraged to leave, without explanation, if he or she recognized that they might be at risk for HIV or other illnesses. Potential donors are then asked specific questions to identify possible high-risk activities.

Layer 2: Laboratory Testing

Collected blood is screened for possible contamination with a variety of tests. Regarding HIV, this screening includes nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT), which involves a testing technology that directly detects the genetic material of viruses. This and similar testing technologies do not rely on antibody formation.

The U.S. blood supply is now considered quite safe. An investigational NAT assay used to screen for West Nile Virus is now available. Certainly no one can claim that a blood transfusion is 100% safe, just as we can't say driving your car to the local Piggly Wiggly is 100% safe. Certainly no one should be getting a blood transfusion unless they have a medical indication for the procedure. In the absence of a true medical indication, any potential risk would be greatly outweighed by the benefits. The same cannot be said about taking a quick drive to the Piggly Wiggly because somebody ran out of tortillas and guacamole, but somehow no one worries about that potential risk.

Hope that helps! Thank you for the donation. We plan to use it to help HIV-infected children. AIDS has already killed nearly six million children worldwide. That's more than every child in every preschool, grade school, and high school in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Atlanta, and Miami combined!!!

Dr. Bob



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