DOH belies report on HIV-positive blood donations

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Aug 02 2011 12:01 AM | Updated as of Aug 02 2011 06:49 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Only one in every 200 blood packs donated to the Department of Health, blood banks, and the Red Cross tested positive for HIV in June, a health official said Monday.

Dr. Eric Tayag, chief of the Department of Health's National Epidemiology Center, made the clarification on ANC's the Rundown in response to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report claiming that 27% of blood donations are HIV-positive.

"It's wrong. The mistake was made because the 118 reported blood units was signed off as the number of blood donated for the month of June when, in fact, 118 represented the number of blood units that were [initially] screened HIV positive," he explained.

"The discrepancy is so obvious, because it's impossible that only 118 blood units were collected or donated for June," he said.

Each month, thousands of blood packs undergo regular screening at blood banks for HIV, malaria, syphilis, and other infections, Tayag said. "We want to protect our blood supply," he added.

For June, 118 packs additional screening and these were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Only 32 packs were confirmed positive for HIV, Tayag said.

"The discrepancy is so obvious, because it's impossible that only 108 blood units were collected or donated for June.

He added that from January to June this year, 468 blood units required additional tests at the RITM.

Only 102 packs were confirmed positive for HIV, Tayag said.

However, the health official revealed that the 32 blood packs that tested positive for HIV in June is the highest on record for a month.

"For January to June, we don't expect it (the percentage) to be higher," Tayag said.

The rise in the number of blood units found HIV positive should not discourage people from donating, according to Philippine Red Cross official Rosa Rosal.

"We need more donors. This should not stop us from appealing for more donors," she said. "There are thousands of oeprations, people afflicted with leukemia that need donations."

178 new HIV cases

A total of 178 new HIV cases were recorded in the country in June, according to the DOH's National AIDS Registry Report, which is available online.

It marked a 63% increase compared to the same period last year.

According to the report, 94% of the new cases were males.

"The median age was 28 years. The 20-29 year age-group had the most number of cases (60%)," it added.

Sixty-two percent or 111 of the new cases were from Metro Manila.

A total of 173 of the cases said they got HIV from sexual contact, with male-on-male sex being the predominant type of sexual transmission at 83%.

Twenty-two -- 18 men and 4 women -- of the 178 reported cases were overseas Filipino workers.

The National HIV and AIDS Registry, which began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984, now lists an aggregate of 7,031 cases, including 875 with advanced AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), according to party-list Rep. Rep. Arnel Ty.

He said 37 percent of those with full-blown AIDS, or 325 patients, have since died.

Of the new cases discovered in June, Ty said 167 were males and 11 were females. Their median age was 28 years, with those belonging to the 20 to 29 age group accounting for 60 percent of the cases.

He said 22 of the new cases, 18 were male overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and four OFW females.

Ty said 91% percent, or 6,379 of all the cases in the National HIV and AIDS Registry acquired the infection from unprotected sexual contact.

The rest were infected via contaminated needle sharing among drug users, mother-to-child conveyance, tainted blood transfusion, needle prick injuries, or had no reported mode of transmission.

The Philippine National AIDS Council has warned that up to 46,000 Filipinos could be diagnosed with HIV by 2015, unless the spread of the disease is stopped.