Mon, 16 Oct 2000

Expert hints of more HIV-contaminated blood

JAKARTA (JP): An expert said on Sunday that each year saw an increase of contaminated blood at the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) along with a rise in HIV/AIDS carriers in the country.

"We have data indicating a significant increase of HIV- contaminated blood," Zubairi Djoerban, chief of Indonesia's AIDS Study Group from the University of Indonesia's School of Medicine told The Jakarta Post.

He cited PMI data dating back to the 1992/1993 period that blood in eight out of 533,865 bags tested positive for HIV/AIDS. He said that the 1994/1995 data showed blood in nine out of 743,813 bags were contaminated with the virus.

"Meanwhile, the 1999/2000 data shows 66 out of 732,177 blood bags were infected with the deadly virus," Zubairi said.

"I think this is a global trend since in the United States, HIV/AIDS is detected in one out of 450,000 blood bags annually."

In 1987, 12,000 people in the United States reportedly contracted HIV/AIDS from blood transfusions, he said.

"Therefore, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has no choice but to tighten its control and avoid using (blood) donors who are at high risk," Zubairi said, adding that all contaminated blood had been destroyed.

Zubairi made his remark amid allegations that nine bags of blood supplied by the PMI Bandung office were found to be Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) positive when tested by the Bandung Advent Hospital laboratory.

Advent Hospital laboratory stated on Thursday that after the family of a patient requested an examination of the blood, the staff detected the deadly virus using the pesona method, which was more effective than the commonly applied elisa technique.

PMI, however, has denied the claim. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is awaiting the results of an official examination, using the Western Blot method to test the blood.

Zubairi said that the elisa method was considered quite sensitive.

"Therefore, I think the public must not panic as PMI has done its job quite well," he said.

However, if the nine bags of blood prove to be HIV positive, further investigation must be done, especially in the quality control area, he said.

PMI in Jakarta runs pre- and post-counseling for blood donors, he said.

"If any of the donors turn out to be HIV/AIDS carriers, they will be further given assistance by our study group.

"But such (PMI counseling) is actually controversial as the approach used in receiving the donors' blood is 'unlinked and anonymous', in which a test is run on the blood donated but not on the donor," he said.

Zubairi further said that up to September this year 1,448 people with HIV/AIDS had been recorded.

"But I believe that the total number of carriers is far higher than that since in the past couple of months we have found 146 people infected with HIV, mostly drug users," he said. (edt)