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Is blood supply really safe?
Jan 27, 2002

Dr. Henry,

How safe is the blood supply in the US? I am concerned because recently one of my close friends received a blood transfusion. I know blood is tested thoroughly, yet I have also read that certain strains of HIV (strain O, N) are not detectable by current testing mechanisms. Thus, how does one really know the blood they are receiving is safe if these strains might not be detected? Tragically, the way I see it testing for these strains will be made commomplace only after some poor recipient is infected by one of these strains. (I realize these are rare strains, yet how do we really know they are rare if we aren't even testing for them?)

Response from Dr. Henry

The chances of transmitting HIV in the manner you described are incredibly low (on the order of the odds of getting in a fatal crash on the way to the blood bank). Persons from regions of the world with high rates of HIV (including areas with high rates of non-clade B strains) are often excluded from donating blood. Present day technologies have almost eliminated blood transfusion as a means to spread HIV in the US and most of the developed world. KH



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