Blood banks in Mumbai are not only reeling under a shortage of blood units, but also Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) testing kits. Several government blood banks have now been asked to locally purchase HIV screening kits until the delay is addressed.
The Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) receives HIV kits from the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and issues 110 kits to 21 NACO supported blood banks in Mumbai every month. Each kit can test 96 blood units, which means 10,560 blood unit samples are tested across government blood banks each month. These include blood banks at Tata Memorial, JJ, KEM, Sion, and Nair hospitals, among the major ones.
For over a month, however, a delay on the part of NACO has hampered the HIV kit supply. “The procurement has been done, but manufacturers are yet to supply the kits,” said Dr Shrikala Acharya, additional project director, MDACS, adding that NACO has assured that supply will start by November-end.
MDACS has now written to government blood banks and blood banks that are part of BMC and state-run hospitals to locally procure HIV testing kits. While the request was made two weeks ago, a fresh supply of HIV kits is yet to reach several blood banks.
Dr Avinash Supe, head of tertiary hospitals in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said that there has been short supply due to MDACS. “We bought stock at local level. Right now there is adequate stock in KEM bank,” he said.
Each HIV testing kit costs Rs 4,500. KEM Hospital that records annual blood collection between 20,000-25,000 blood units, requires about 20 kits for 2,000 blood units per month. Sion and Nair hospitals that collect 15,000 blood units annually, require over 13 kits.
Whenever a blood bank holds voluntary blood donation camps, it is supposed to screen each blood sample for diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and HIV. An HIV ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) testing kit screens for HIV antibodies or HIV antigen-antibodies to ensure infected blood is not passed on to any patient.
An MDACS official said that in case of interim shortage, each institute running a blood bank has grants to make local purchases. Meanwhile, the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) has asked each blood bank to submit a record of blood units collected through blood donation camps. The city has been reeling under a shortage of blood due to long holidays in colleges and fewer blood donation camps.
Mumbai has 59 blood banks of which 21 are government run. According to Dr Arun Thorat, attached with SBTC, several blood banks have started conducting donation camps this week and a sudden surge in blood collection may be witnessed in the coming days.
With a surge in blood donation drives, more blood units will require HIV screening. “We have more camps in the coming days. The issue of blood shortage should end,” Thorat said.