Calcutta, June 8: Ananda Saha (name changed), the three-year-old boy from Habra, is not the only person in the state who has been infected with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, through blood transfusion.
At least 30 other children, and one or two adults as well, who are patients of either thalassaemia or haemophilia, have become HIV positive. These patients frequently require transfusion of blood products that are supposed to be screened thoroughly by blood banks.
The bulk of the detections has taken place at the School of Tropical Medicine, where 28 persons suffering from thalassaemia and haemophilia have been found to be HIV positive after the confirmatory test.
“We have treated a few such patients once their condition required admission. Most of them have been thalassaemia children as they require transfusion more frequently than haemophiliacs,” said B.K. Saha, head of the department of medicine at the school’s hospital.
Most of these patients are from low-income families and have mostly had their blood transfusions done either at NRS hospital (like Ananda) or at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.
Two of the 160 patients undergoing treatment under the aegis of the Thalassaemia Foundation were detected HIV positive when tests were conducted at the All India Institute of Public Health & Hygiene. “One person is about 22, while the other is four or five years old,” said Debabrata Pal of the institute’s microbiology department.
The Haemophilia Society knows of three of its members who have become HIV positive after being administered contaminated blood products.
“Low-income families take their children to NRS hospital because it was, for some time, the only government hospital that had a specialised unit under the thalassaemia community control programme of the Indian Council of Medical Research,” said Sailen Ghosh, president of Thalassaemia and AIDS Prevention Society.
This would explain why NRS is the common place of contamination. Now, Medical College has a unit, too.
The recent death of seven-year-old Raju Sahuji of Basirhat, of AIDS-related complications, has shattered his parents. He was responding to thalassaemia treatment but infection through blood transfusion led to his death. Like Ananda, he was also detected HIV positive while undergoing treatment at NRS.
“Raju’s parents had come to us after they were told about his infection,” said D. Ashis, secretary of Medical Bank, a voluntary organisation. “They asked us what could be done. We could only promise taking it up with the health department.”
In May 2001 an inquiry was ordered by the health department after four thalassaemia children, being treated at NRS hospital, were detected with HIV. But the probe drew a blank.