Shampa Das (name changed), 22, was affected only by thalassemia intermedia till February 2006, however, now she is diagnosed to be HIV positive.
Initially, blood transfusion was not needed for her, however, as her condition worsened, she underwent blood transfusion 10 times last year.
She had visited the Central Blood Bank at Maniktala in Kolkata in February. She could have got infected then, as ineffective diagnostic kits from the jute baron Govind Sarda's firm; Monozyme (India) Pvt Ltd, were used in the bank at approximately the same time, as reported in the September 29th issue of TOI.
When she went to Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College for a regular check-up in April, she was tested positive for HIV.
The Thalassemia and AIDS Prevention Society, West Bengal, maintains a register of all patients coming to the hematology department and also conducts HIV tests on them. "It is likely that she got infected blood at least two months before the test was conducted," said Sailen Ghosh, society's secretary.
In no time Shampa's world fell apart. "I knew that I was a thalassemic but never could I imagine something like this happening to me. How can I be blamed for this? There's a lot of stigma attached to us and now this has come upon me. I hope no one gets to know about this," Shampa said.
Central Blood Bank director Subir Kumar Bose said, "I was not intimated about the incident. Let the family members lodge a complaint with us, we will look into the matter."
Shampa's thalassemic state had let her get to know about the HIV condition so early. However, only 12-15% of the total blood collected in the state is used for transfusion to thalassemic patients.
It was only probably because she was thalassemic that she got to know about her condition so soon. Blood transfusion to thalassemia patients accounts for only 12-15% of the total blood collected in the state. This implies that several people could have become HIV positive due to the defective kits.
According to a survey by the Thalassemia and AIDS Prevention Society, 195 children went to NRS hospital for transfusion between November 2005 and April 2006, of which, 12 have got infected with HIV.
NRS Medical College and Hospital's medical superintendent Basanta Khan was not surprised when told about the survey results. "This happens in developing countries. There is no reason to raise a hue and cry over this," he said.
State health secretary Kalyan Bagchi said, "Without a complaint it would be difficult to explain what had caused the infection. I cannot comment without getting the specifics of the case. She could have been infected by the needle or some other way."
In December 2005, Monozyme got the orders for supplying test kits to the West Bengal AIDS Control and Prevention Society. The company has supplied around 1.6 lakh units to test Hepatitis B, 75,000 units to test Hepatitis C and 5,000 vials each to test blood groups A and B to Central Blood Bank, 8 big state hospitals and through them 47 sub-divisional hospitals and blood banks.
"These sales were made from April to August this year. We will probe this case, " said DC (DD) Gyanwant Singh.