South Africa: Transfusion of Blood Safer From HIV Than Ever
July 22, 2008
The introduction of nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) for HIV by the South African National Blood Service has significantly cut the risk of being infected through transfusion, an SANBS official said recently. The remark followed reports of a blood scare involving a child at St. Augustine's Hospital in Durban who was transfused with blood from a donor who later tested HIV-positive.
"We are safer than we have ever been," said Dr. Sam Gulube, SANBS medical director. "South Africa is the first country in the world to have implemented individual NAT testing on such a large scale, taking the lead from First World countries such as the U.S. and UK."
Since NAT's launch in October 2005, there have been no transfusion-linked HIV infections, while "there were two a year every year from 2000 to 2005," Gulube said. NAT shortens the "window period" during which the infection can go undetected, he added.
The service tests about 3,000 units of blood each day for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C. Testing costs about R115 (U.S. $15) per unit, for about R355,000 (U.S. $45,800) daily.
When a donor later tests HIV-positive, SANBS investigates recipients of suspect blood products to find out whether infected blood was donated during the window period. In the recent case, the St. Augustine child later tested HIV-negative, said Gulube.
"We get about 80 to 100 donors becoming positive a year, out of 350,000," or 0.028 percent of donors, Gulube said. Most donors are honest about their HIV risk behaviors, he said, and only about 2 percent of donations must be discarded each year.
The Star (Johannesburg)
7.15.2008; Louise Flanagan