Blood tainted with the HIV/AIDS virus has been able to go past the safety screening procedures at the national blood bank to the drips (intravenous infusion) of patients during transfusion ÔÇô the Sunday Standard can reveal.
BONELA lawyers have served the Ministry of Health with a notice of intention to sue after their client, a five year old boy from Mochudi was infected by HIV contaminated blood at Deborah Retief Hospital three years ago.
The case, however, only came to light five months ago after an investigation by the health authorities turned up information that the blood sample from the five year old’s blood transfusion, which is normally kept for five years, was contaminated. The investigation followed a complaint by the infant’s parents.
The Sunday Standard, however, has not been able to establish the amount of HIV-positive blood units that entered the nation’s blood supply undetected and the number of people who were given the contaminated blood.
BONELA, which is suing the Ministry of Health for P5 million on behalf of the infant’s mother, states in their notice that: the infant “fell ill sometime in 2007 and was taken” by his parents to Deborah Retief Hospital in Mochudi where, after several tests, he was diagnosed as being anemic. Prior to the diagnosis, client was informed by the attending doctor that they had checked for all diseases from the urinal and blood samples and they were unable to pick any other diseases save for anemia.
A blood transfusion was subsequently administered after assurance by the attending doctor that “the blood was very safe as it had been thoroughly screened in medical laboratories hence it was free from diseases”.
After the transfusion, the toddler never recovered and instead started developing symptoms of HIV, e.g. enlarged lymph nodes.
“On the 15th April 2010, client was advised to check the toddler for HIV as he was exhibiting symptoms of HIV/AIDS and the worst was confirmed; the results were HIV positive.
“Puzzled client approached the hospital manager, Dr Onyach, for answers and he promised to investigate the blood transfusion as client suspected the virus was transmitted to her son then. In the meanwhile client and her husband went to test for HIV and their results were negative.
“Dr Onyach subsequently called client and her husband with a report: that the blood sample from the sickly infant’s blood transfusion, which is normally kept for 5 years, was found and it tested HIV positive.
“At Dr Onyach’s insistence, client and her husband was once again called for a meeting sometime in May 2010. Present were Dr Ndwapi, Ms Makhwade, Ms Lopang and two others unknown to client and her husband.
“During the said meeting, Dr Ndwapi confirmed Dr Onyach’s report regarding the blood specimen and said there had been a mistake of some kind.
The contamination of blood at the national blood bank came at a time when the country’s blood supply was believed to be at its safest. Safe Blood for Africa has been working in Botswana since 2000 in two major areas of HIV prevention: development of a youth program, and by providing technical assistance to the Botswana National Blood Transfusion Service. SBFA has assisted with increasing the quality and quantity of safe blood for Botswana by providing the required training.
Since SBFA entered Botswana, the blood supply has increased by over 100 percent and the HIV infection rate among donors has decreased from 9 percent to less than 2 percent. With the initial Gates Foundation and Merck Foundation assistance, Safe Blood for Africa established a Pledge 25 program to encourage HIV prevention among the Botswana youth. Currently Safe Blood for Africa is providing technical assistance and training in Botswana in all areas of blood safety, including quality systems, laboratory data base management, donor recruitment and appropriate utilization of blood under the U.S. CDC PEPFAR program.