Thousands of people in India have reportedly been infected with HIV after receiving blood transfusions in hospitals in the past 17 months.
India's National AIDS Control Organisation released the statistics after receiving a Right To Information petition from activist Chetan Kothari, BBC reports. The information from NACO revealed that at least 2,234 people in India have been infected with HIV from blood transfusions in the last 17 months.
"This is the official data, provided by the government-run NACO. I believe the real numbers would be double or triple that," said Kothari.
Kothari, an Indian information activist, said he was "shocked" by the statistics.
In May, a 3-year-old boy who was taken to a hospital for burn injuries was reported to have gotten HIV from a blood transfusion with contaminated blood, The Hindu reports.
Indian law states that hospitals must screen blood donors for HIV, as well as malaria and hepatitis B and C, along with other potential diseases and infections. Kothari said that although the law says hospitals must test donated blood, most hospitals do not have the proper equipment or facilities to perform the tests.
"But each such test costs [$18] and most hospitals in India do not have the testing facilities. Even in a big city like Mumbai, only three private hospitals have HIV testing facilities. Even the largest government hospitals do not have the technology to screen blood for HIV," said Kothari. "This is a very serious matter and must be addressed urgently."
NACO Deputy Director General Naresh Goyal said that HIV can be difficult to detect because of the nature of the disease.
"In some cases, the donor may be in a window period -- before his HIV viral load can be detected -- when he donates the blood. In such cases, when screened, the blood sample shows a false negative," said Goyal, according to The Hindu. Goyal also pointed out that 20 years ago, 8-10 percent of total HIV infections in India came from blood transfusions, but that today, that statistic is below 1 percent.
India has an estimated 2.09 million people living with HIV or AIDS.