Blood serum and plasma imported from China will not be used for the purpose of transfusions in Taiwan, the Department of Health (DOH) assured the public on Friday. The announcement was made in response to lawmakers’ concerns after the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) allowed the opening up of the nation’s blood market to blood from China, which has one of the fastest-growing AIDS rates in the world.
The DOH said Chinese-imported blood serum and plasma are to be used only for in-vitro diagnostic tests and are banned from being used for blood transfusions or for human use.
“The public has nothing to worry about. All serum and plasma imported from China can only be used as a raw material for the purpose of in-vitro diagnostic tests for hepatitis B and AIDS,” Bureau of Medical Affairs director Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) told a press conference, adding that all imported blood must undergo close inspection and obtain approval from the DOH before entering the Taiwan market.
Shih said that as a part of the application for DOH approval, all biotech companies that intend to import plasma must provide documentation that proves the origin of the sample, and that the samples must have tested negative for various infectious viruses, in line with WHO protocols.
Furthermore, Shih said, the law requires that all blood, serum and plasma to be used for blood transfusions must be extracted in Taiwan.
On Friday, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wen Chin-chu (翁金珠) chided the MOEA for putting the nation’s health at risk by approving the imports of serum and plasma from China despite the fact that malaria is endemic in some parts of China.
Reported cases of HIV and AIDS in China have escalated rapidly in recent years, she said.
“The DOH said Taiwanese citizens who have traveled to malaria-affected regions in China are not allowed to donate blood for one year after their visit. However, the government has clandestinely opened up Taiwan to blood from China,” she said, adding that she suspected some high-ranking officers are behind the deal for personal profit.
USAIDS said China’s HIV epidemic remains fairly low, but added that there are pockets of high infection among specific sub-populations and in some localities.
Estimates on the organization’s Web site show that by the end of 2007, approximately 700,000 Chinese were HIV positive. The HIV infection rate among China’s population is 0.05 percent.
An estimated 85,000 Chinese have AIDS and of those, 35,000 have been infected through commercial blood donations and transfusions.