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M. Waqar Bhatti
May 14, 2016



Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS detected in kids after multiple blood transfusions

Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS detected in kids after multiple blood transfusions


Scores of children who require multiple blood transfusions in a year because of blood disorders have been diagnosed with hepatitis B and C and some with HIV/AIDS too during the last few years in Karachi and the rest of the province as most blood banks provide unscreened blood despite charging hundreds of rupees for screening.

“Of the 200 cancer patients, who underwent blood transfusion multiple times during 2013 to 2015, around 46 percent of them were later tested positive either for hepatitis B or C,” paediatrician and Child Aid Association chairman Prof Nizam-ul-Hasan told The News on Friday.

He added that over 73 percent of the patients admitted to the National Institute of Child Health’s cancer department either had hepatitis B or C.

“People are still being infected with hepatitis and HIV/AIDS because of unscreened blood being provided by different blood banks in the city.”

The Child Aid Association is an NGO running a cancer ward at the NICH and cancer patients and besides Karachi, patients from rural Sindh and Balochistan too are brought there for the treatment of tumours, blood cancers and disorders including thalassaemia and leukaemia, which require blood transfusions once or twice a month.

Prof Nizam said when 73 percent children with cancer were tested positive for hepatitis B and C in 2012 at their department they decided to screen all the blood being brought by parents and attendants for transfusion to them as well as all the patients admitted there.

“Between 2013 and 2015, 200 children with cancers were screened and it was found that 86 of them were infected with hepatitis B and C. Of these 86 patients, 69 had hepatitis C and the other 17 had hepatitis B.”

The doctor said there had been no improvement in first four months of the current year as blood banks in the city were still providing unscreened, infected blood to the parents and attendants of the children.

NICH blood bank closed

Dr Zill-e-Huma, a pathologist at the Child Aid Association -run cancer ward said the blood bank at NICH, which used to provide blood to cancer patients, was not functioning anymore the reasons for which were unknown. She added that parents and attendants of cancer patients were compelled to arrange blood bags from other blood banks.

“The Indus Hospital, which used to provide blood bags for children requiring transfusion, too has stopped now, further worsening the situation.”

Dr Huma said because of the absence of quality blood banks at the NICH and the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, there was no other option for people but to acquire blood from blood banks, which used poor screening techniques or did not screen it at all.

Unscreened blood

There are 163 children with HIV/AIDS registered with the Sindh Aids Control Programme, almost half of them acquiring it from unscreened blood. Others acquired the infection from their mothers.

Dr. Sikandar Iqbal, a Sindh Aids Control Programme official, said although the accurate data of children who had acquired AIDS from unscreened blood was not available to them but some children who required multiple blood transfusions acquired it from poorly screened or completely unscreened blood supplied by blood banks.

He added that the situation in rural Sindh was even worse as the blood banks there hardly conducted screening or used obsolete techniques, resulting in high incidence of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

Call for centralised blood bank

Haematologists and experts said to provide safe blood to patients, there was an urgent need for setting up a centralised blood bank with competent pathologists, haematologists and technicians and latest equipment so that blood was properly screened.

Haematologist Dr Tahir Sultan Shamsi said the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) had solely become a licensing authority instead of ensuring that blood banks followed rules and regulations.

“People, especially children, are becoming infected with preventable diseases because of the provision of unsafe blood and this is criminal negligence on the part of the SBTA” he added.

Dr Shamsi urged the provincial health department to take action for the provision of safe and screened blood to patients and restructure the regulatory authorities.

SBTA secretary surprised

When the findings of different surveys and studies were shared with SBTA secretary Dr Zahid Ansari, he said he was surprised to learn that unscreened blood was being supplied in the city.

“There is no unregistered blood bank functioning in Karachi at the moment,” he added.

“I haven’t received any complaints in this connection but I will visit the NICH blood bank and other banks to ascertain the facts and take strict action if any negligence is observed.”