India registered 2,234 new cases of HIV infection since the beginning of 2015 through instances of blood transfusions that used infected blood, data from the country’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) showed Monday. The agency, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, released the data in response to an information query by an activist.
According to Indian laws, all blood donors or donated blood must be screened for transmissible infections of HIV, hepatitis B and C, malaria and syphilis. However, enforcement of laws in the world’s second-most populous country is often lax.
Initially reported by the Hindu, a local newspaper, the data showed a 3-year-old boy was infected with HIV last week after he was given contaminated blood while being treated for burn injuries.
“The government has been slackening on raising AIDS awareness due to budget cuts. Cases like these keep happening over and over again and no action is taken against erring hospitals and blood banks. This is an extremely serious issue, and the government needs to address it urgently,” Chetan Kothari, an activist who requested the information from NACO, reportedly said.
Kothari made the request under India’s Right to Information law, which allows citizens to ask government bodies for public information that must be made available within 30 days.
Naresh Goyal, deputy director general of NACO, commented on the data, saying: “These numbers must be looked in the context of the scale of our HIV program. For example, 20 years ago, nearly 8-10 percent of total HIV infections were coming to transfusions. Currently, that figure is below 1 percent. We have conquered this route of infection. It is now legally mandatory for every blood bank to screening the units before giving it to a patient. In some cases, the donor may be in a window period — before his HIV viral load can be detected — when he donates the blood. In such cases, when screened, the blood sample shows a false negative.”
According to NACO’s latest annual report, India had more than 2.1 million people infected with HIV in 2015, of whom 40.5 percent were females and 6.54 percent were under the age of 15. The number is lower than 2.2 million infected people in 2007. The country is estimated to have registered about 86,000 new cases of HIV infections in 2015.