March 29, 2006
On Tuesday, Greece announced it will screen blood for transfusions with the more sensitive nucleic acid testing (NAT). The announcement follows reports that two people were infected with HIV after a donor's blood tested false-negative under the old screening method. To bring Greek hospitals NAT, the government will spend €25 million to €30 million ($30 million to $36 million US), said Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
NAT can detect HIV 11 days after infection, said ministry officials, compared to 22 days with the current method used in Greece. Most EU nations launched NAT during 2001-2003, said Dina Politi, hematology department director at a busy Athens hospital.
The daily newspaper To Vima reported Tuesday that a 16-year-old anemic patient tested HIV-positive following a September 2005 blood transfusion. Avramopoulos confirmed that a 76-year-old heart patient was also infected by plasma transfusions during an operation. Health officials said the infected samples were traced back to a 38-year-old who had donated blood for a relative's operation.
"This was a rare case, the chances of this happening are one in a million," said Angelos Hatzakis, chairperson for KEELPNO, Greece's national center for monitoring and preventing disease.