At least 10 Pakistani children who received blood transfusions have tested positive for HIV, with the discovery said to be just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Pakistan's Minister of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar, slammed the case as "shocking," and promised an investigation.
The children, aged five to 16, all suffer from the hereditary blood disorder Thalassaemia, which requires patients to undergo regular transfusions on a biweekly basis.
Vice chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Javed Akram, said the number of children affected was likely to increase as more Thalassaemia patients are tested for HIV.
Akram said laws require blood to be screened for diseases, but enforcement is very lax, adding, "most of the professional blood donors are drug abusers."
The secretary-general of a consortium of charities that offers transfusions to 22,000, Yasmin Rashid, said most blood banks in Pakistan are privately operated and the quality, age and price of blood varies widely.
According to an informational website supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus, Thalassaemia results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anemia.