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hiv testing of blood 1988
Feb 6, 2010

I have a friend who recieved a blood transfusion as an infant in 1988. In the past 2 months he has had the flu, followed by pneumonia and now shingles. Should I recommend he get HIV tested ? I don't want to alarm or scare him, but I was unable to find the status of testing the blood supply for HIV in 1988.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

Transmission of HIV via blood transfusions has been almost completely eradicated since blood donation centers began screening donations with HIV-antibody tests in 1985. The testing assays have been significantly improved since the first generation of tests was introduced in the mid-eighties. Starting in 1999, nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) has been used to directly detect a portion of HIV's genetic material in blood. Current estimates suggest fewer than 1 in 1,900,000 blood components is capable of transmitting HIV. Transfusion medicine specialists are continuing to research new technologies to further reduce the transmission risk associated with blood and blood product transfusions.

Having a bout of flu complicated by a case of pneumonia is quite common and would not suggest underlying immunodeficiency. Likewise, the vast majority of routine cases of shingles have absolutely nothing to do with HIV/AIDS. Your intentions are good, but unless your buddy is having recurrent bouts of unexplained pneumonia or his shingles were atypical, widespread, persistent and difficult to treat, I see no reason to recommend HIV testing.

Dr. Bob



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