Two In Florida Infected With
AIDS From Donor Blood

By Theresa Tamkins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Two patients in Florida have contracted HIV after receiving blood products from an HIV-infected individual who donated blood in the narrow window of time before tests can pick up signs of the virus.
"We deeply empathize with the patients and their families and share the raw emotions invoked by this tragic event," said Don Doddridge, chief executive officer of Florida Blood Services in a prepared statement.
If an individual is exposed to HIV, it takes from 7 to 10 days before available tests can pick up signs of the virus.
"A subsequent donation from the donor was found to be HIV positive and we immediately began a lookback process on all previous donations and the patients who received these blood components," said Dr. German Leparc, chief medical officer of Florida Blood Services.
Florida Blood Services is one of about 75 different organizations in the US that belongs to America's Blood Centers, a network of nonprofit agencies that collect about half of the blood in the country. The Red Cross collects the other half.
The chances of becoming infected with donated blood is still extremely low, said Dr. Celso Bianco, executive vice president of America's Blood Centers in Washington, DC.
"Transfusion is still one of the safest procedures in medicine and the risk for HIV is about 1 in 2 million, but it's not zero," he told Reuters Health.
A highly sensitive testing method called nucleic acid testing (NAT) has narrowed the gap between the point at which an individual contracts HIV and their testing positive for the virus.
Since the introduction of this test, there has only been one other case in which an HIV-infected donor passed the virus onto a recipient. That occurred in San Antonio, Texas in February 2002 and one patient was infected, Bianco said.
"This is a tragedy," Bianco told Reuters Health. "The window of transmission has been reduced substantially since the introduction of nucleic acid testing, or NAT, but we still have 10 days that possibly someone gets infected."
He added, "We transfuse about 20 million components of blood a year in the country so the number of cases is small but each one is terrible."
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