Health officials announced yesterday that yet another patient has contracted AIDS as a result of a blood transfusion.
The patient is the 15th person to contract the disease in this manner since 1984, when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) began keeping records on blood donors and recipients.
"Prior to last year, we had about three years in which there were no such cases, but we're seeing an increase in the number of people contracting AIDS through blood transfusions again. We want to remind everyone of the legal responsibilities involved in donating blood," CDC Deputy Director Lin Ting (林頂) said yesterday.
According to a press release issued yesterday by the CDC, routine blood tests revealed that an HIV carrier donated blood in November last year. Health authorities subsequently found that the donor had also donated blood in July last year.
The donated blood had gone to two recipients, of which one passed away before AIDS tests could be performed. Tests last month confirmed that the other recipient had contracted HIV from the transfusion.
The press statement said that the law stipulates a jail term of 5 to 12 years for infecting others with HIV as a result of donating blood.
According to Tsai Shu-feng (蔡淑芬), chief of the center's AIDS division, three people contracted the virus because of blood transfusions last year. This includes the case announced yesterday.
"No matter how advanced our tests are, technology will always have its limitations. There is a window period after a person contracts AIDS during which even the best test cannot detect the disease," Lin said.
The CDC is faced with the dilemma of protecting patients without alienating potential donors, he said.
Lin said that blood banks would be stepping up measures to prevent irresponsible blood donation. Precautionary policies now require potential donors to be interviewed before giving blood, that they present photo identification and read relevant legal stipulations on the consequences of infecting recipients.
Tsai said that people sometimes donate blood to find out whether they have AIDS, but that anonymous testing is now being offered at several hospitals, including the National Taiwan University Hospital.
"The three cases we had last year all resulted from donors who had given blood despite being ineligible for various reasons," Tsai said.
"One of the main problems is that people ... do not think that they could possibly have AIDS," she said.