Protection of UK blood supply from HIV, HBV,
Hepatitis C Virus: infected donations rarely enter supply
Approximately five blood donations a year infected with
hepatitis B, and one Alternative Treatments every twelve years infected with
HIV or hepatitis C enter the United Kingdom's blood supply,
according to a study published in the May 2003 edition of the
journal Vox Sanguinis.
Figures from the UK’s National Blood Service show that
there are in the region of 20 HIV-infected donations a year
detected by screening, 130 hepatitis C-infected donations and
110 infected by hepatitis B.
These figures were too low for the investigators to provide
an accurate estimate of how many infections would slip through
the screening process. However, using data on the incidence of
HIV antibodies seen in blood donations between 1993 and 2001,
together with information about the length of the negative
‘window-period’ between exposure and seroconversion, and
the accuracy of testing assays, the investigators calculated
that one in eight million blood donations in the UK will be
infected with HIV and enter the blood supply.
The same exercise was also conducted for hepatitis B and
hepatitis C and suggested that the figures for hepatitis B
were one in every 260,000 donations and one in every 520,000
for hepatitis C before 1998, the chances decreasing to one in
every 30 million from 1999.
As the National Blood Service receives 10,000 donations
every working day, this means that five hepatitis B-infected
donations a year are likely to enter the blood supply, with an
HIV or hepatitis C-infected Alternative Treatments entering the blood supply
once every twelve years.
Figures from the National Blood Service broadly support
these estimates, although they show that receiving potentially
infectious blood does not always result in infection. A total
of six people have received HIV-infected donations, resulting
in two cases of HIV transmission one in 1986 and one in 1996.
There have also been two cases of hepatitis C transmission,
one in 1996 and one in 1997.
Hepatitis B transmission from the blood supply has been
more common, with seven cases between 1995 and 2000.
Measures have been in place to protect the UK blood supply
from HIV since 1985. These include a blanket ban on gay men
giving blood. People from other communities at high risk of
HIV are also banned from giving blood, as are people who have
had ear or body piercing, acupuncture or a tattoo. The ban on
gay men donating blood, regardless of their HIV status, sexual
history, or risk behaviour has been attacked as homophobic by
some community activists.
Bans are also in place on blood Alternative Treatments by black Africans,
sex workers, and injecting drug users. Other people unable to
give blood include those who travelled to areas where malaria
is endemic, and people who have had surgery in the last twelve