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The Relationship between AIDS and HIV

June 7, 2000

Risks Associated With Transfusion

It has been argued that AIDS among transfusion recipients is due to underlying diseases that necessitated the transfusion, rather than to HIV (Duesberg, 1991). This theory is contradicted by a report by the Transfusion Safety Study Group, which compared HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood recipients who had been given transfusions for similar diseases. Approximately three years after the transfusion, the mean CD4+ T cell count in 64 HIV-negative recipients was 850/mm3, while 111 HIV-seropositive individuals had average CD4+ T cell counts of 375/mm3 (Donegan et al., 1990). By 1993, there were 37 cases of AIDS in the HIV-infected group, but not a single AIDS-defining illness in the HIV-seronegative transfusion recipients (Cohen, 1994d).

People have received blood transfusions for decades; however, as discussed above, AIDS-like symptoms were extraordinarily rare before the appearance of HIV. Recent surveys have shown that AIDS-like symptoms remain very rare among transfusion recipients who are HIV-seronegative and their sexual contacts. In one study of transfusion safety, no AIDS-defining illnesses were seen among 807 HIV-negative recipients of blood or blood products, or 947 long-term sexual or household contacts of these individuals (Aledort et al., 1993).

In addition, through 1994, the CDC had received reports of 628 cases of AIDS in individuals whose primary risk factor was sex with an HIV-infected transfusion recipient (CDC, 1995a), a finding not explainable by the "risk-AIDS" hypothesis.

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