China to reduce HIV infections through blood transfusions with better testing

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BEIJING, Jan 13 – China will ask the nation’s blood stations to employ more accurate testing methods to detect viruses this year, a health official said on Monday, following reports that a girl contracted HIV through a blood transfusion.

It has been confirmed that a five-year-old girl in Fujian Province contracted HIV through a blood transfusion during an operation four years ago.

“It is a heart-wrenching case,” said Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), adding that China will lower such risks in the future through nationwide adoption of the Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) by the end of 2015.

The NAT, a technique used to detect viruses or bacteria, can shorten the “window period” when viruses or bacteria go largely unnoticed by blood tests.

Using traditional testing methods, it takes about 20 days for HIV antigens to be detected after the virus enters the human body.

HIV-positive blood donors unaware of their status may pass the virus to others if donations happen during that 20-day window period, as the virus cannot be detected by tests.

Mao said the NAT can shorten the window period for HIV to 10 days, reducing risks in blood transfusions.

The NAT can also be used to control risk for other blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis, Mao added. The method has been used in trial runs in recent years.

The young girl was just eight months old when she underwent heart surgery for congenital heart disease in May 2010 and became infected.

She tested positive for the virus during a physical examination in September 2014.