The Kaohsiung Blood Center has discovered that a 30-year-old man from Greater Kaohsiung who donated blood 302 times in the past decade has tested positive for HIV/AIDS, causing a public outcry.
The blood center notified the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the case.
“Fortunately, the blood donated by the man over the past six months was given to only five patients, four of whom have died of unrelated diseases and the remaining one has tested negative for the illness,” CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said on Friday.
On average, about 50 to 100 blood donors are found to be HIV-positive each year, according to Chou.
“Most are unaware of their health status, but some give blood as a way to test themselves for HIV after engaging in unsafe sex. Such a reprehensible practice could pose serious health risks to others,” Chou said.
According to Article 21 of the HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act (人類免疫缺乏病毒傳染防治及感染者權益保障條例), individuals who, despite being aware of their HIV status, supply blood or provide organs for transplantation could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.
However, no one has ever been imprisoned for violating the article, Chou added.
Chou said while donated blood was destroyed if found to test positive for HIV, it remained difficult to eliminate the risk of transmission through transfusions due to the 11-day “window period” — the time between first infection and when testing can reliably detect HIV infection.
“Every year, up to two blood recipients contract HIV from someone who is in the ‘window period,’” Chou said.
“The Taiwan Blood Service Foundation has set up a humanitarian fund to help such victims by offering them NT$3 million (US$98,800) in compensation,” Chou added.
The foundation’s data showed that as of this month, blood centers have reported 61 HIV-positive blood donors nationwide, seven of whom — including the man in question — are single men aged between 20 and 32 from Greater Kaohsiung who became infected through sexual intercourse.
The Greater Kaohsiung Government Department of Health’s statistics suggest that unsafe sex is the most common cause of HIV infection, with 68.05 percent of the 3,293 HIV-confirmed city residents infected through unprotected sex.