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|Wednesday, August 22, 2001, updated at 16:15(GMT+8)|
China Warned of AIDS Spread Through Dirty BloodMedical specialists have warned China of an HIV/AIDS epidemic caused by unsafe blood collection and supply even though so far it has caused the least amount of HIV infections, of all the causes, across the country.
"China has to learn lessons from other countries that have reported many HIV/AIDS cases associated with blood transfusion, and must take determined measures to ensure blood safety," said Professor Zheng Xiwen.
Eight people out of every 1,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers are confirmed as being victims of unsafe blood collection and supply in China, whose HIV/AIDS figure is feared to have surpassed 600,000.
Intravenous drug use, often involving shared syringes, is responsible for 71 percent of HIV infections, and 21 percent are caused by unknown reasons, with another seven percent caused by sexual contact, according to statistics from the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Center under the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The AIDS virus can be spread via sexual contact, blood, or infant infection from the mother carrying the virus. Blood-borne transmission is usually caused by blood transfusion and unsafe blood collection, said the professor with the AIDS center.
Many developed and developing countries have reported HIV/AIDS transmissions through blood since the first case was disclosed in 1983, he said, citing a French case in which thousands of recipients of contaminated blood became AIDS victims in the mid 1980s.
In Japan, 30 percent of hemophilia patients were infected with HIV after using an inactivated platelet factor, he said, adding that other blood-related AIDS incidents have also taken place in Romania, the United States, and Germany.
Three to five percent of HIV infections around the world have been caused by blood transfusions, and such a ratio has hit 25 percent and 20 percent among African children and women, he said.
"Controlling blood-borne diseases remains a task for global medics because current blood testing technology can not guarantee 100 percent safety," noted Gao Feng, deputy director of the Shanghai Blood Center, a World Health Organization collaborator.
Prof. Zheng pointed out that attention should also be paid to unsafe blood collection, such as failed sterilization or sharing of devices.
Blood sellers run a high risk of becoming ill because blood plasma stations pool the blood of many sellers, separate the plasma for biotechnology companies, and transfer the remaining fraction, mainly red cells, back into the sellers, who think the process is healthy because of the limited blood loss.
"If one person is sick, the rest will also fall ill," and such cases have occurred in some South American and Asian nations, Zheng said.
Gao Feng said the key measure to ensure blood safety is the common practice of blood donation because the safety level of blood from donors is five to ten times that of blood sellers.
Although a national law has become effective to spur blood donation for clinical use, China has to further encourage blood donation, he said.
Qualified blood collecting stations and strict blood tests are needed, particularly in impoverished regions, he said, indicating in some areas illegal blood deals manipulated by "bloodheads" and commercial blood plasma stations have resulted in the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis among blood sellers.
China plans to invest heavily in the construction of blood collection and supply networks in central and western areas, and to close illegal blood stations this year, according to the sources of the MOH.
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