- Woman put on anti-retroviral treatment, unclear if baby would be infected
- Woman was transfused with blood from an HIV-positive man
- 3 lab technicians suspended for alleged lapses over the last two years
A 24-year-old pregnant woman in Tamil Nadu has turned HIV-positive after she received infected blood during a transfusion at a government hospital in Virudhunagar district, around 500 km from Chennai. The government has offered financial compensation and jobs for the woman and her husband, but they want help for private treatment after the negligence.
Three lab technicians of a government-run blood bank in the neighbouring town of Sivakasi have been suspended for the horrific lapse.
Two years ago, a man had donated blood to the blood bank during a donation drive by an NGO. The blood bank authorities found out that he was HIV-positive. But while they did not use the blood for transfusion, they neglected to inform the donor about his HIV status.
On November 30, this year, the man donated blood again, which was administered to the pregnant woman on December 3. The lab technicians at the government blood bank in Sivakasi found nothing wrong in the routine tests.
But days later, the man underwent an HIV test as part of routine requirement for a job abroad for which he had applied. On December 17, he got to know that he was HIV positive.
By the time he alerted the government hospital, his blood had already been given to the woman.
The woman has been put on anti-retroviral treatment because doctors say instant detection gives her a chance to live a long life. But the family now has to wait till the birth to find out whether the baby is infected with HIV.
The HIV virus is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse, infected blood and from an infected mother to the baby in her womb or through breastfeeding.
"There have been lapses twice. We suspect the technician who cleared the blood did not test for HIV. It's an accident and not intentional. We have ordered a probe. We are also treating the young man," said Dr R Manoharan, deputy director at Tamil Nadu's health department.
Experts are now calling for a centralised online system for blocking HIV-positive donors. They have also demanded a faster test to detect the HIV infection instead of the largely used Elisa test which takes three months.
Dr P Ravindran, Medical Officer, Lions Blood Bank said: "The antibodies screening it takes three months after infection to detect. If you are infected today, screening will not show positive. It may escape. Nucleic Acid Test is better for earlier detection, within seven days of infection we can find it. But not all blood banks use that because it's expensive. We can begin with a centralised facility."
The state government says its working on plugging loopholes. "A detailed inquiry has been ordered. We are revisiting protocols. Tamil Nadu has eight lakh donors, 296 blood banks, 523 storage units and 153 blood component separators. We are going to ensure we take it to the logical conclusion and provide best care," Dr J Radhakrishnan, Health Secretary, said .
The police has registered a case of negligence and endangering life, punishable up to two years jail.
In 2017, only 59 per cent of the 36.9 million people living with HIV across the world were receiving the anti-retroviral therapy, which suppresses the spread and growth of the virus in a person's body, according to World Health Organisation.