The two related stories below as reported by The Japan News happen to coincide with both my Deaf World Japan and Japan and Globalization classes' recent study and discussions of the HIV/AIDS situation for both hearing and deaf people in Japan. In addition, World AIDS Day is coming up soon (December 1) and so the media will probably have more coverage about the positive steps taken in the fight against AIDS. But apparently not in Japan...
HIV-tainted blood given to 2 patients
Blood from a donor infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was transfused into two patients as the donated blood slipped through checks by the Japanese Red Cross Society, it was learned Tuesday.
The Japanese Red Cross Society and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry have identified the recipients of the blood transfusions and are checking whether they were infected with the virus.
The ministry’s Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council will discuss steps to be taken at a panel on blood product operations.
It is the first time that blood from a donor infected with HIV was found to have been transfused to patients since the Japanese Red Cross Society reinforced its checking systems in 2004, after a case of HIV infection through blood transfusion was found the previous year.
According to the ministry and the Japanese Red Cross Society, HIV antibodies were detected in blood that was donated earlier this month. Though that blood was not used for transfusion, it was found that the same donor had also given blood in February this year.
The society checked a stored sample from the earlier donation, and HIV genes were detected. The society also confirmed that the blood, given by an unnamed man, was transfused to two patients at two different medical institutions.
The Japanese Red Cross Society said the man wrote untrue answers on a 23-point checklist at the time of his recent donation, including a question about whether he was making the donation to receive an HIV test because he was worried about AIDS.
The ministry's position is that the man possibly donated blood aiming to check whether he was infected with AIDS.
The checks are conducted in two stages. First, each blood sample undergoes tests to detect antibodies of viruses. Since 1999, this has been followed by higher-accuracy tests conducted on groups of 20 samples.
If any group is found to contain a sample that is HIV-positive, all the samples are checked in more detail to pinpoint the donor in question. The blood that was transfused to the two patients this year was not found to be HIV-positive when it was checked in February.
However, this may be due to the fact that HIV infection has an initial stage called a window period, during which the viruses cannot be detected because there is such a small amount of them in the blood.
The test the Japanese Red Cross Society introduced in 1999 is called the nucleic acid amplification test (NAT), which multiplies the number of virus genes in a sample to more accurately detect their existence.
But in 2003, a quantity of donated blood passed through the NAT check and was transfused to a patient, who was later found to be infected with HIV.
To further improve the accuracy of the checks, the Japanese Red Cross Society tightened procedures in 2004. The NAT tests, which had been conducted on samples from groups of 50 donors, are now conducted on samples from groups of 20.
The society is considering further reducing the number in the group checks. “We want to shorten the period during which viruses cannot be detected as far as possible,” an official of the society said.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura said at a press conference Tuesday morning after a Cabinet meeting, “I want to consider an option that [samples] of each donor will be checked [individually rather than in groups].”
Man diagnosed as HIV positive
A man in his 60s who received blood from an HIV-infected donor has been diagnosed as HIV positive, the Japanese Red Cross Society said Tuesday.
The man is one of two people who received blood transfusions from the donor. Whether the other person has been infected with the virus remains unknown, the Red Cross told a health ministry committee.
According to the Red Cross, the donor is a Japanese man in his 40s. Although he had homosexual affairs in the six-month period prior to donating blood, he did not report the fact when he gave blood in February.
After identifying the two recipients, the Red Cross conducted infection screenings and found that a man in his 60s suffering from a chronic digestive disorder tested positive for the HIV virus in a checkup carried out this month after a blood transfusion in October.
The Red Cross did not give any details on others who received blood transfusions in February.
Click here for previous coverage of HIV/AIDS in Japan on VAOJ.