- A total of 1,357 more people were found to be HIV positive in Sindh during the first eight months of 2021.
- Blood samples in Pakistan are screened for five infectious diseases — HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and malaria.
- Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho directs relevant authorities to implement a screening system for safe blood transfusions.
A total of 1,357 more people were found to be HIV positive in Sindh during the first eight months of 2021 after their blood samples were screened at the blood banks in 24 districts of the province, officials of the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) have revealed.
“During the first eight months of this year, around 455,742 donors donated their blood at 166 blood banks in the 24 districts of Sindh, of which 1,357 donors were found to be infected with HIV, which amounts to 0.29% of the samples,” Dr Durre Naz Jamal, the SBTA director, told a meeting of the provincial health department presided over by Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho.
“Of the 455,742 blood samples tested in the province, around 24,088 were found reactive or infected with either of five different diseases,” Dr Durre Naz said as she explained that 5.28% (24,088) of the donors were infected with one or more infectious diseases and were unfit for blood donations.
Blood samples in Pakistan are screened for five infectious diseases — HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and malaria — to prevent recipients from contracting these diseases through blood transfusion but sometimes, unscreened blood is transfused to people as most of the blood banks lack the facility of nucleic acid testing (NAT), a molecular technique for screening the donated blood.
The SBTA data presented to the provincial health minister revealed that 8,155 or 1.79% of blood donors in Sindh were infected with hepatitis B while 7,995 or 1.75% were infected with hepatitis C.
In addition to that, as many as 6,142 blood donors were found to be infected with syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection. The percentage of the donors infected with syphilis was 1.34, Dr Durre Naz said, adding that 448 blood donors had also been found to be infected with malaria.
According to the data presented to the health department, the highest number of blood donors infected with HIV were found in Karachi’s District East where 653 persons were found to have HIV in their blood, followed by District South of Karachi, where 431 blood donors were found to be infected with HIV.
Similarly, Karachi’s District South had the highest number of blood donors infected with hepatitis B and C, where 2,603 donors were found to be infected with HBV and 2,923 blood donors with HCV.
Directing the SBTA to strictly implement the screening system for safe blood transfusion across the province, Dr Pechuho said a dashboard of blood screening results should be immediately established to prevent the spread of diseases caused by blood transfusions.
Presiding over the third board meeting of SBTA, the health minister said it was highly unfortunate that instead of getting cured, people acquired other infectious diseases due to unscreened blood.
The meeting was told that so far 243 blood banks had been closed in the province by the SBTA for providing unscreened blood and violating the authority’s standard operating procedures. Last year, the SBTA closed down 13 blood banks, mostly in Ghotki, Sukkur and Larkana districts, whereas this year, two blood banks had been closed by the authority.
In addition to this, 142 new blood banks had been registered and allowed to operate.
The health minister directed the authority to inform the blood donors about the screening results in case any infection was found in their samples. She said such information should also be shared with the HIV/AIDS control programme so that the treatment of such patients could be started.
She also said that all necessary steps should be taken during blood transfusion in patients with haemophilia and thalassaemia and the iron-chelating process also be completed for thalassaemia patients so that the patients did not suffer from any side effects.
It was informed in the meeting that free and safe blood was being supplied from four regional blood centres (RBC) under the public sector in Sindh, including RBC Jamshoro, RBC Sukkur, RBC Shaheed Benazirabad and RBC Karachi. Besides, 13 hospital-based blood banks were also working closely with the regional blood banks.