New Delhi: More than 2,000 people contracted human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to unsafe blood transfusion across India in the last 17 months. The information was revealed in response to a RTI (right to information) application filed by Mumbai-based activist Chetan Kothari.

The news was first reported by The Hindu newspaper.

The RTI reply from National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) shows that 2,234 persons, including children, got HIV from contaminated blood. Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 361 such cases, followed by Gujarat (292), Maharashtra (276) and Delhi (264).

States like Tripura, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim did not report any case of HIV infection through blood transfusion.

However, NACO said the number revealed in the RTI was based on self-reporting by the patients and not verified through any scientific means.

“The information provided in response to the RTI refers to information on self-reported transmission of HIV recorded by counsellors from clients attending the ICTC (Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres). This is not further corroborated by any scientific means to confirm that transmission is indeed due to blood transfusion," said NACO in a statement.

The data reveals serious lack of regulation on NACO’s part. According to the rules, it is the responsibility of NACO to ensure safe blood transfusion. It is mandatory in India to screen donors and donated blood for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis.

“It is illegal to not test the blood before transfusion," said Naresh Goyal, deputy director general, NACO.

NACO noted that all blood samples have to be tested for five transfusion-transmitted infections. But there is a window period between acquiring the infection and the infection becoming detectable. If the blood is tested during this period, it won’t show any infection. And if transfusion takes place during that period, it can be harmful.

It also stated that blood transfusion accounts for less than 1% of total HIV infection and there is no increasing trend in HIV transmission through blood, as reflected in ICTC data.

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