10 per cent of blood certified ‘good’ contains HIV —Expert

Attainment of zero new HIV cases in Nigeria may be a mirage given that at least 10 per cent of blood passed as “good” for transfusion when analysed using PCR machine, a more sophisticated test contains HIV, an expert has warned.

Professor Georgina Odaibo who stated this in her inaugural lecture titled “The Same Enemy, Different Consequences” at the University of Ibadan.

Odaibo, Head, Department of Virology, University of Ibadan, quoted a new study that retested blood samples passed as good for transfusion using a rapid test device that when analysed using the PCR machine found some were infected with HIV.

The don stated that most of the rapid HIV test that is available will not pick all cases of HIV.

She added that the use of contaminated instruments and transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products still play a major role in the spread of the virus in Nigeria.

According to her, “Unfortunately, most of the blood banks and hospitals in this country still depend on HIV-rapid test device for the screening of blood for transfusion.”

“It means that HIV will continue to be transmitted through blood if the right techniques are not available for testing in different locations in this country.

“We must make sure that blood that is to be transfused is safe. So, there is a need for us to make sure that we have ELISA-based testing for all blood that will be transfused and that trained manpower is available in various hospitals.

“In developed countries, they use PCR which is a more sensitive technique to pick HIV even if it is present in the very minute quantity. That is the level we should move to in Nigeria if we really want to control the level of HIV in this country.”

Professor Odaibo said although the majority of the epidemic prone viruses have been effectively controlled in the developed world, the same viruses remain serious health problems in developing countries.

The don stated that this challenge is compounded by additional factors of low investment in research funding and management, poor governance, weak health care infrastructure, lack of commitment and discipline that is required for surveillance and disease control.

Professor Odaibo stated that “With viruses accounting for over 70 per cent of infectious diseases and epidemics in Nigeria and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the need for strengthening of training, research and surveillance in virology in Nigeria is very urgent.

“The vaccination coverage is unacceptably very low in many parts of Nigeria. It requires research to understand the reasons, and use of results to understand the reasons and use the results to plan appropriate intervention programmes.”