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Editorial
, 318 (8), 511-2

Transfusion-transmitted AIDS Reassessed

Editorial

Transfusion-transmitted AIDS Reassessed

T F Zuck. N Engl J Med.

Abstract

PIP: This editorial traces the recommendations of the Food and Drug Administration with respect to reducing transmission of AIDS by transfusions of blood. Next the findings of a research study which appears in the same issue of this journal are reviewed. In this study, the authors describe 7 persons with negative HIV-antibody tests who donated blood but later had detectable HIV antibodies. The authors estimate the number of blood components that test negative but carry infection that are collected annually in the US. Their estimate of the current risk may be overly pessimistic. Newer, more accurate tests should be implemented as soon as clinical trials have established their efficacy and practicality. While tests are being validated, the education of donors must be intensified and focused. Although continued vigilance over the safety of the blood supply is essential, the risks of HIV transmission by transfusion should be kept in perspective. The risk of acquiring HIV infection through transfusion is low compared with the odds of death from influenza, abortion after the 14th week, and car accidents. The measures instituted to protect patients from acquiring HIV infection through blood transfusions have greatly improved the safety of the nation's blood supply. It is safer than it has ever been, but the slight risks that still remain can be reduced at this time only by intensified and appropriately focused education of blood donors and by more circumspect ordering of blood components by physicians.

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