- KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Health authorities in Ukraine may be spreading
HIV by using blood transfusions from infected people who were tested on
faulty equipment, a former top AIDS official charged.
- Ukraine's government banned imports of
HIV-testing equipment in January 1998 to support domestic industry and
cut costs by using cheaper, Ukrainian-made testers.
- But the domestic testers are detecting
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in only about 40 per cent of cases, Valeriy
Ivasiuk, former chairman of the state committee for AIDS prevention, said
- He based the charge on data collected
by a government commission that double-checked the accuracy of testing
equipment until last October. The commission was abolished in a government
streamlining effort, and such monitoring is no longer being conducted.
- It was unclear whether the commission
was using Ukrainian equipment to check the tests.
- The HIV detection rate in Ukraine was
85 per cent, well above the 75 per cent required by the World Health Organization,
before 1998, Ivasiuk said. Now that imported testing equipment is banned,
the only company that has received a government license to produce testers
in Ukraine, Diaprof-Med, cannot satisfy the growing demand.
- "The testers' quality is falling
because an ever-increasing number of them have to be produced," Ivasiuk
told a news conference.
- In 1996, authorities registered 400 cases
of blood donations that initially tested negative for HIV but in follow-up
tests turned out to carry the virus.
- In the first nine months of 1998, that
number had soared to 1,544 cases, Ivasiuk said.
- Blood donors in Ukraine are given money,
making blood donation attractive to drug addicts and the country's many
- Valeriy Shevchuk of Diaprof-Med rejected
Ivasiuk's allegations that his firm's equipment was faulty. Officials at
the Health Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.
- But the National Security Council responded
promptly to Ivasiuk's inquiries about tainted blood transfusions: "According
the Health Ministry's data, all blood transfusion centres in Ukraine conduct
proper examination of donors' blood."
- Ivasiuk's charge came as a similar AIDS-related
scandal was continuing in France. Three former ministers there are on trial
for involuntary homicide in the deaths of five people transfused with HIV-infected
blood. The ministers are accused of delaying systematic testing for AIDS
with an American-made test while a French test was being readied.
- "Will it ever be possible in Ukraine
to also investigate people who, in my opinion, did everything to trigger
the spread of AIDS through blood transfusions?" Ivasiuk said.
- Ukraine, a nation of 50 million people,
has experienced a sharp rise in registered HIV infections in the past several
- There were 22,494 HIV cases registered
in Ukraine as of last November, up from 18,500 in mid-1997. The per capita
figure is higher than in all other former Soviet republics, according to
the Health Ministry.