Medical crisis

Kerala: Nine-year-old with cancer contracts HIV after blood transfusion, inquiry ordered

The hospital where she had her transfusions at claimed they had had no blood donors who were carrying the virus.

The Kerala government constituted a team of medical experts on Friday to investigate the case of a nine-year-old patient who tested positive for HIV, reportedly after a blood transfusion at a hospital in its capital Thiruvananthapuram, PTI reported.

The girl had gone to the Regional Cancer Centre about six months ago for treatment for leukaemia. Recently, after noticing swelling in her eyes, doctors at the institute had carried out many tests, including a blood test, which showed that she was HIV positive. She had received at least 49 units of blood at the cancer centre.

She had tested negative for HIV when she was first treated. “We came here for cancer treatment and are going back with HIV also,” her father told NDTV. The girl has never had any blood transfusions anywhere else, he said. “Now the doctors are saying they will refer us to Medical College for the HIV treatment of our daughter and that she can easily have a normal life for 10-15 years,” the 43-year-old said.

Kerala Health Minister KK Shylaja has told the panel, headed by Joint Director of Medical Education Sreekumari, to investigate the matter and submit a report. The minister also said the state government would bear all future treatment expenses of the girl. The Kerala Police have filed a case of negligence.

The Kerala Human Rights Commission has also ordered an inquiry. Its Acting Chairperson P Mohandas said the director of the cancer centre and the health secretary should submit an explanation within three weeks.

Regional Cancer Centre’s director Paul Sebastian said that there were no lapses on their side, and that none of their blood donors had had HIV. “But there is a possibility that when the blood is donated, though the tests show negative, the person may still have AIDS,” Sebastian said. It may take around one to three months to reflect as positive in tests, he added.

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