[EDITORIALS]HIV and bloodAIDS has been on the rise in Korea, and now three Koreans have been infected with the virus that causes it through blood transfusions, the first such incidents in eight years. Those infections were a bolt from the blue for people who have received transfusions as part of their medical treatment. The safety of the blood supply can never be checked 100 percent, and millions of those in need of blood transfusion are fearful of the infection.
The three victims were infected with HIV after receiving blood donated last year by a man in his 20s with a history of homosexual activities. The man’s blood was checked for HIV, but his infection was not detected because the HIV antibodies were not yet detectable in his blood. It takes about three weeks for the antibodies to appear after a person is infected; there is no way to verify that blood is contaminated within that period of time with Korea’s current HIV antibody/antigen test. Since Korea’s first AIDS case was found in 1985, 10 such HIV infections were caused by blood transfusion through 1995. In the United States, about 9,000 persons had been infected with HIV through blood transfusions as of 2001.
To decrease the risk accompanying blood transfusions, it is urgent to update our testing. Nucleic acid amplification tests can reduce the period of uncertainty by one week; we must not quibble over the 10 billion won ($8.4 million) it would cost to make blood supplies safer.
Some persons reportedly donate blood in order to be tested for AIDS. To stop that practice, blood donors should be counseled. Last year alone, the amount of blood infected with HIV and thrown away was the equivalent of 2,000 donations.
The United Nations has forecast that 130 million people will die of AIDS by 2015. There were 2,122 HIV-infected people in Korea at the end of the first quarter and four persons are infected every three days. The government stressed that Korea’s AIDS quarantine is stricter than that of many foreign countries, but there are problem areas. The government must review its AIDS management system and correct any weaknesses.