Peru Health Ministry Launches Blood Bank Inspections After People Acquire HIV Through Transfusions at State Hospitals
Health authorities in Peru have closed and launched inspections of the country's 240 blood banks after four people in less than six months acquired HIV through blood transfusions at public hospitals, Health Minister Carlos Vallejos announced Thursday, the AP/MSNBC.com reports (Lopez, AP/MSNCB.com, 9/13). "All the blood banks in Peru will undergo a more exhaustive evaluation than the one we have been carrying out since the start of the year, which allowed us to close 30 centers," Vallejos said (AFP/Google.com, 9/13). He noted that the inspection commission will include officials from the World Health Organization (AP/MSNBC.com, 9/13).
A health ministry investigation found that one woman, Judith Rivera, acquired HIV through a blood transfusion during an operation in April at a state hospital in Callao, Peru. Vallejos confirmed three other cases, including one involving an 11-month-old infant, that all occurred at the same hospital (AFP/Google.com, 9/13). Rivera said she plans to take legal action to claim compensation. "What is done is done, as they say, and a life has no price tag," she said during a news conference (BBC News, 9/14).
Jose Fuentes-Rivera, who heads the country's blood banks, said that blood donation centers will be established while the banks are undergoing inspections and that voluntary blood donations will be made a national priority, EFE News reports. According to EFE News, less than 4% of blood donations in Peru come from volunteers. The remainder is supplied by relatives and friends of people who need a transfusion or by people who are paid to give blood (EFE News, 9/13).
"We do not want people to panic -- what we have to do is be more careful" and "strengthen" care provided to patients, Vallejos said (BBC News, 9/14). Vallejos said the country meets international standards for blood donation screening. However, Jose Cruz, an adviser on blood and laboratory safety for the Pan American Health Organization, called Peru's blood banks "worrying." He added that Peru is on the organization's list of countries that fail to perform preliminary disease screening on all collected blood. PAHO's most recent figures show that almost 25% of the blood Peru's banks receive is not screened properly, Cruz said. About 93,000 HIV-positive people are living in Peru, according to United Nations' estimates (AP/MSNBC.com, 9/13).
President Alan Garcia on Saturday announced that Rivera will receive about 300,000 Peruvian soles, or $95,000, in compensation, as well as a house from a program supported by the government in conjunction with private real estate companies. "I, as head of state, ask forgiveness of" Rivera, Garcia said, adding, that he thinks the "error that occurred is extremely grave." Garcia also called on "all officials to ensure that serious mistakes such as this that affect the poorest people do not reoccur" (EFE News Service, 9/15).