n CME : Your SA Journal of CPD - Ensuring the safety of blood transfusion in South Africa




Although the contribution of transfusion-transmitted infection to the HIV epidemic has not been accurately assessed, according to the World Health Organization, globally an estimated 5 - 10% of HIV infections are due to blood transfusion. Since breaking onto the scene 26 years ago, HIV has proven an indefatigable foe. Over 60 million people have been infected with this retrovirus, and 25 million have already died of AIDS. HIV infection is hitting the hardest in the developing world. AIDS was first recognised in the summer of 1981. Young gay men began falling ill and dying of opportunistic infections their immune systems should have fended off. By late 1982, epidemiological evidence indicated that AIDS was an infectious disease transferred by bodily fluids and by exposure to contaminated blood or blood products. Without a test for AIDS, blood banks had difficulty safeguarding the blood supply, and most refused to screen donors for homosexuality. Surrogate markers, such as hepatitis B core antigen, proved imperfect at best. Thus, the blood supply remained unsafe for years, and many people were transfused with contaminated blood.


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