Islamabad: At least 10 Pakistani children suffering from thalassemia have tested positive for the HIV virus after allegedly receiving a transfusion of infected blood.
The news about the children aged between 5 and 16 getting the deadly virus due to negligence of medical staff sent shockwaves through the healthcare community yesterday.
Dr Yasmin Rashid, secretary general Thalassemia Federation of Pakistan, confirmed the children got HIV due to infected blood transfusion, Dawn reported.
She said that all the children had tested positive for HIV, but she was unwilling to lay blame on any specific individual, saying that several people in Pakistan have been given unsafe transfusions.
Ministry of National Health Services set up fact finding committee while Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) offered free treatment for the children.
According to PIMS Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram, six of the children belonged to the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Thalassemia is a hereditary blood disorder that prevents the production of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen to all parts of the body.
Anyone afflicted with the disorder needs regular red blood cell-infusions.
"I lobbied very hard for the promulgation of the Blood Transfusion Act nearly 10 years ago, but the law was never implemented properly. As a result, several people are given tainted blood and infected with diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, among others," Rashid said.
The government should act immediately due to the sensitive nature of the issue, Akram said.
"Private clinics and other organisations have been spreading death and they need to be stopped immediately. I fear many more could be affected," he said.
Ayesha Abid, president of Thalassemia Awareness and Prevention in Pakistan (TAPP), was also quite upset over the incident.
"Blood is life for a thalassemia patient; they need transfusions between one and three times a month. Their parents must ensure that they only get screened blood," she said.
Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar said she had instructed the DG Health to submit a detailed report and that a fact-finding committee would be set up to fix responsibility for this tragedy.
She also promised action against unregistered blood banks and those who sold unscreened blood.