The Center for Disease Control confirmed yesterday that three people had contracted HIV from blood transfusions from a single donor in Kaohsiung City.
The center said the blood donor had made a total of six donations before he was confirmed to be HIV-positive in a test done in November. The blood he donated in November was destroyed, but when health officials traced his previous blood donation record they found that three people had contracted the virus from transfusions of his blood.
One of the recipients died from the disease after the blood transfusion, while the other two were confirmed to have contracted HIV via transfusions of blood donated in July.
The CDC urged the public to make use of the 10 hospitals nationwide that offer free and anonymous testing for HIV, and not to rely on the tests carried before donating blood. The CEC explained that HIV has a "window period" of about six weeks to 12 weeks, which is the period between when a person becomes infected with the virus and when they would test positive.
The Consumers' Foundation yesterday accused the Department of Health of behaving as if human life was not worth a straw. The foundation said 18 people had contracted HIV and lost their lives over a period of 23 years due to blood transfusion transmission.
The foundation urged the department to improve HIV screening to avoid repetition, again and again, of the same tragedy.
The foundation noted that unlike Japan, America, and China, which adopt NAT (Nucleic acid based test) to screen whole blood donors for HIV infection, Taiwan still adopts the EIA (enzyme immuoassay) to test for antibodies to HIV in blood donors. It takes 11 days of NAT to obtain a final result, but it takes 22 days to obtain a final result with the EIA test.
The foundation urged the DOH to immediately allocate funds for NAT screening so as to guarantee the safety of blood transfusions.