After the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) revealed that 2,234 people in the country have been infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from 2014 to 2016, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), based on the complaint filed by an activist, has instructed health officials to submit a report within eight weeks. The health department, however, claimed that the figures indicate self-reported cases and lack credibility.
NHRC released the directive on November 23, asking NACO and other concerned officials to respond to the complaint and file a report. Responding to the same, Dr Shobhini Rajan, assistant director general (blood safety) said that they have already filed a response, pointing out the loophole in infection reporting and spread guidelines.
“The blood banks and state transfusion departments are following NACO guidelines where they are supposed to list the number of patients, who self-report the infection, citing blood transfusion as a reason (for infection). We have informed NHRC about the existing window period between the sampling and transfusion, which can lead to Transfusion Transmitted Infections (TTI),” said Dr Rajan. She added that all the blood banks, according to NACO guidelines, are doing the mandatory tests before accepting blood which includes HIV ELISA tests.
The RTI information, accessed from NACO for the period between October 2014 and March 2016, had revealed that 2,234 individuals across India reported HIV infection through blood transfusion and blood products. Social activist Chetan Kothari, who had filed the RTI, approached NHRC, blaming the inefficiency of NACO and state blood transfusion departments.
Pointing out the staff crunch across blood banks of the nation, resulting in complacency in blood safety measures and increase in infection, Kothari said, “The state Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and Central Drug Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) body must submit a compliance report on implementation of above staffing norms in the blood banks of India, within the stipulated time limit period.”
A senior official from State Blood Transfusion Council of Maharashtra said that the self-reporting nature format case doesn’t provide credible record about the actual TTI figures. “While mentioning the cause of infection, the patients have to choose from transfusion, unprotected sex, mother to child transmission and infection due to syringes. Most of the time, people give transfusion as a cause,” said the official.
“The NACO kits have a 99.8% sensitivity, which means there will be a large number of cases which will be false positive. If the officials are saying cases are self-reported and hence lack credibility, they also aren’t following up with the victims to investigate the blood bank records of his time of blood transfusion and how he was infected,” said a senior pathologist from a civic run blood bank.