Unsafe Blood Transfusions, Medical Practices in Central Asia Contributing to Spread of Infectious Diseases, Including HIV, World Bank Report Says
Unsafe blood transfusion services and medical practices in Central Asian countries are contributing to the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases in the region, according to a report recently released by the World Bank, Kazakhstan Today/Gazeta.kz reports. According to the report, of all the people living with HIV worldwide, 5% to 10% contracted the virus through contaminated blood transfusions (Kazakhstan Today/Gazeta.kz, 6/13).
For the report, the World Bank -- in collaboration with CDC, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe and Ministries of Health in the region -- re-tested 7,500 blood donor samples from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The test included an ALT test, which detects liver injuries that are caused by all types of hepatitis. The re-testing identified the prevalence of some infectious diseases in the blood samples, including 0.2% for HIV, 2.7% for hepatitis B, 3% for hepatitis C and 3.6% for syphilis. The results indicate that current screening methods for donated blood in the countries studied might not be fully effective, according to the report. The report also found that some health facilities in the countries did not test blood donations at all.
The report recommends that countries in Central Asia implement measures to improve blood services, including establishing nationally coordinated blood transfusion systems and universal unpaid blood donor systems, as well as optimizing laws, regulations and donor promotion campaigns. Attention also must be placed on effective donor screening strategies, training of medical personnel, and promoting the use of blood and blood products. In addition, international support is critical to assisting the countries to restructure their health systems and to prevent disease transmission, the report noted.
"Numerous parts of these countries' blood transfusion systems are in serious need of restructuring, of new investments and of increased budgetary support for operation and maintenance," Patricio Marquez, lead health specialist at the World Bank and author of the report, said. He added, "These findings underscore the need to strengthen screening of blood donors for each donation and strengthen other prevention and control measures to guarantee the safety of the blood supply in the health systems of the Central Asia countries. Such improvements would reduce the potential risk of involuntary infection to the unsuspecting population" (AKIpress, 6/13).
The report is available online (.pdf).