Two days after a 23-year-old pregnant woman tested positive for HIV following a blood transfusion at Sattur Government Hospital in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, another woman on Friday claimed to have contracted the deadly virus in a similar manner.
The 30-year-old mother of two from Chennai told the Tamil TV channel News 7 that she was infected after a blood transfusion at the city’s Government Kilpauk Medical College in April this year. She was pregnant at the time, she added.
The hospital denied the allegations.
The woman and her husband sell vegetables at Koyambedu market in Chennai. She claimed that when she was pregnant with her second child, a nurse at the Mangadu Government Hospital persuaded her to undergo blood tests at a private hospital in the city. “I spent Rs 500 on the tests,” the woman said. She was found to be anemic, but tested negative for HIV. “My haemoglobin count was just 5.3,” she told Scroll.in.
The doctor who checked her at the Mangadu hospital said she needed a transfusion and referred her to the Kilpauk Medical College. She was five months pregnant then. “In addition to blood transfusion, I was also given 10 injections,” the woman said.
P Vasanthamani, dean of the Kilpauk Medical College, confirmed the woman was hospitalised there from April 5 to April 16. “She was given two units of blood,” she said. “Since she showed us a report that said she was HIV negative we did not run another test at that time.”
Three months later, on August 16, the woman went back for a routine examination. “Haemoglobin count had increased to 9.1,” she said. “But I tested positive for HIV.”
Her husband, who did not want to be identified, said, “The doctor told us she might have got the infection through blood transfusion. Now that she is infected with HIV they cannot do anything and she has to undergo treatment.”
The couple said they did not have the resources or the strength to pursue a police complaint. “She was in the last week of the eight month of her pregnancy when she found to be infected,” said the husband. “What were we supposed to do at that time?”
Their child is now three months old. “When we got his blood tests done, he tested negative for HIV,” said the woman. “I pray to God every day that my child is spared from HIV,” she said.
Vasanthamani, however, rejected the couple’s allegations. “We do fourth generation ELISA screening for all blood to be transfused,” she said. “Only screened blood was transfused. When the couple visited the hospital for a medical checkup in August, we checked that the blood tests were done at a private clinic. We did not find them reliable. We asked her to get the blood tests done again. This time, she was tested positive for HIV and we immediately put her on antiretroviral therapy.”
She added that had couple had filed a complaint with state health department in November following which the hospital conducted an internal inquiry. “We have investigated the case and found the hospital was not at fault,” the dean claimed. “The test report she got from the private hospital was wrong.”
To support their claim, the hospital went to the extent of publishing the names and blood sample numbers of HIV patients. This immediately drew condemnation.
‘Responding to treatment’
On Thursday, the Madras High Court took suo motu cognisance of the Sattur woman’s case and asked the government to file action taken and status reports on the matter by January 3. The government has already formed an expert committee to look into the matter, and the health department has sacked three staff members at the Sattur hospital.
The Hindu, meanwhile, reported on Friday that the woman has tested positive for Hepatitis B as well. Previous tests had not confirmed Hepatitis B infection. Doctors treating her at Madurai’s Government Rajaji Hospital said she is responding well to anti-retroviral therapy.
In a related development, the teenager whose HIV-infected blood passed on the virus to the woman attempted suicide by consuming rat poison on Thursday, PTI reported. He too is being treated at the Rajaji Hospital and is recovering.