Pvt blood banks banned in Lanka
By Sugeeswara Senadhira
COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government has banned private blood banks after a
leading woman physician was infected with the deadly HIV virus following
The announcement by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva came after a
leading pediatrician, Kamalika Abeyratne, contracted HIV, or Human
Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), when she was given blood transfusion after she
met with a road accident.
Addressing a seminar to mark the World Health Day on April 7, Health
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said no licences would be issued to private
blood banks as haphazard handling of blood could cause serious problems.
"This vital sector, which provides essential life fluid to patients, will
have to be managed with extreme caution. Hence we cannot grant licences for
private blood banks," de Silva said.
"Private hospitals can obtain blood from the National Blood Bank and keep in
their stores under maintenance," he added.
A national blood policy will be formulated shortly to regularise the blood
transfusion service as every precaution has to be taken in view of the
increase in HIV positive cases in Sri Lanka in recent years.
"A little negligence in handling blood from donors could lead to fatal
mistakes," he added.
Abeyratne's case comes in the wake of AIDS claiming its 80th reported victim
in Sri Lanka. Medical authorities fear that the number of persons infected
with the deadly virus in the island could be well over 6,000, besides 286
HIV positive cases detected.
A recent survey conducted by Shrijayawardenepura University revealed that a
majority of AIDS victims continue sexual activities and as a result the
disease could double within the next ten years. The survey said that nearly
60 per cent of the AIDS victims is married and 37 per cent of them has
Health authorities said a majority of the 280 HIV positive cases were
detected when the patients sought treatment for other diseases. "Very few
persons have come as AIDS patients," said Health Secretary P.
Abeygunawardane, adding: "Most of them were detected when blood tests were
conducted. There are 98 full blown cases among them".
He said although World Health Organisation (WHO) has named Sri Lanka as a
low prevalence country, the government has taken preventive measures as AIDS
could become a serious social problem in a few years. "We have launched a
major AIDS awareness programme in the coastal areas where most of the
victims were detected," he added.
The first AIDS patient in Sri Lanka was detected in 1987. "Now the estimate
is between 6,000 to 8,000 and majority of them may not be even aware of the
deadly virus they carry," one health official said.
Nandasena Ratnapala, sociologist of the Shrijayawardenepura University, said
the first few infections in Sri Lanka were mainly among male homosexuals.
"But during the late 1980s, it became increasingly evident that predominant
mode of transmission was heterosexual," he said, adding currently 84 per
cent of the sources of infection is reported to be heterosexual.
"It is an alarming trend," Ratnapala said. "It is inevitable and poignantly
saddening that the rise in HIV infection among women will only lead to the
increase in transmission from mother to child, resulting more infection
among children and more children being orphaned".
He pointed out that the resultant break of family unit could have serious
social repercussions in the long run.
According to the United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS, which is the prime
global advocacy for the prevention, care and control of the disease,
currently there are 390 children in Sri Lanka whose both parents are HIV
Health Secretary Abeygunawardane said the low prevalence of HIV infection in
Sri Lanka offers an opportunity to keep the epidemic at bay. But he warned
that complacency could result in spread of the disease and bring about
intense human suffering and an adverse socio-economic impact in the future.
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