The continent of Africa has a large portion of the world’s HIV positive people with some estimates in the 60% range.

Because of the high incidence of HIV in the general and blood donor population and inadequate or no donor testing, transfusion associated HIV continues to be a major problem on the continent.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) web site, five to ten per cent of all new HIV cases in Africa are due to contaminated blood and blood products used for transfusion.

Blood transfusions are a necessary part of treatment for some of the health issues Africans face every day; anemia due to malaria infections and malnutrition, both of which plagues the continent.

Disease tainted blood (not only HIV, but hepatitis and syphilis for example) is frequently the only option for a dying patient on a continent which also falls way short of their blood needs. According to a piece in MediaGlobal, there are 3 million units collected with at least 8 million required annually.

Contracting HIV through a blood transfusion is practically guaranteed according to coordinator of WHO Blood Transfusion Safety, Dr. Neelam Dhingra. Dhingra notes that the risk of transmission of HIV through blood transfusion is extremely high (95-100 per cent) as compared to other routes of transmission, perinatal (11-32 per cent) and sexual contact (0.1-10 per cent).

In an attempt to curb this problem, Dhinga says more nations are putting in policies for mandatory blood screening of all units collected. However factors like lack of infrastructure, supplies and quality systems tend to make this policy difficult to adhere to.

Sites of Interest:
WHO Blood Transfusion Safety