Suppliers of blood under investigation
Chinese blood banks and manufacturers of blood products are being urged by an ongoing national campaign to buy only lab-tested plasma to prevent the further spread of viruses, including HIV.
Also, health, medical supervision and public security departments and the prosecutors' office under the State Council are investigating 36 blood-related businesses to see whether they sacrifice health standards for production volume.
They are being asked to precisely and truthfully report their product volume, plasma sources and quantity, and quarantine conditions, officials said.
As the buyers of the blood, the procedures followed by the businesses are vital in preventing blood stations from violating operating regulations during plasma collection, said Mao Quan'an, the Ministry of Health's spokesman.
The examinations, which started at the beginning of July, are part of the campaign that started in late May to fight unsafe blood collection and supplies -- a primary cause of the rapid spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
To make more profit from the plasma centres and blood banks, many blood stations in China, especially those underground ones in the early 1990s, just collected as much plasma as they could without regard to quality and quarantine standards.
The result was disastrous in some rural and remote areas where large numbers of farmers were infected with the HIV virus while selling their blood to the stations.
A majority of the people who were infected in the early 1990s now have AIDS, which has laid a heavy burden on local and central governments.
In response to the outbreak of the HIV virus among thousands of farmers in the late 1990s, Central China's Henan Province closed all blood stations, both illegal and legal ones, Mao said.
Presently, there are very few illegal blood stations, although there are still a few operating secretly, Mao told China Daily.
Meanwhile, attracted by high profits, some official blood centres and even hospitals have also been collecting blood improperly, he noted.
For example, they collect blood too frequently from too many people whose livelihoods depend on selling their blood. Also, laboratory testing, if conducted at all, was often poorly done.
Some blood banks have bought blood without regard to standards, Mao said.
But thanks to efforts to strengthen blood management in recent years, the majority of illegal blood stations have been closed and the blood supply is now much safer, Mao said.
In addition, the State Council has moved to close all illegal blood stations and make all blood centres and hospitals strictly follow blood transmission guidelines by the end of the year.
In a country with 840,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers, unsafe blood collection and transmission is one of the key reasons for the spread of HIV. Other channels include intravenous drug use and sexual contact.
One obstacle, which is a significant cause for the chaotic blood market, is making voluntary blood donations meet the country's clinical demands, Gao said.
Between 10 to 20 per cent of the clinical blood supply depends on paid blood sales and between 20 to 30 per cent comes from voluntary donations.
The situation allows illegal blood stations to operate.