The increasing number of blood-collection centers in parts of China is posing a threat to vulnerable populations and placing them at an increased risk of HIV transmission, some Chinese HIV/AIDS advocates have said recently, the Boston Globe reports.
Some Chinese pharmaceutical companies rely on local "blood brokers" to meet a rising demand for blood plasma -- which is used to produce treatments for hemophilia, immunity disorders and burns -- according to HIV/AIDS advocates, the Globe reports.
Because of the reliance on local brokers, local officials in areas such as Guizhou province often are financially involved with blood selling and do not enforce safety regulations -- thereby exposing donors to HIV and other bloodborne diseases, according to the Globe.
Blood selling practices during the 1990s in China's Henan province contributed to the spread of HIV, which affected about one million people, according to some advocates.
The situation in Henan led officials to pledge reform, and China's Ministry of Health says that it maintains stringent supervision of blood-collection centers in the country.
According to the health ministry, it closed about 150 illegal collection and supply agencies nationwide in 2004, the last year for which official figures are available. Some Chinese pharmaceutical companies have defended blood collection practices, saying that they take steps to ensure donors' safety and that regulations in China are among the most thorough worldwide.
"A seller is only allowed to give blood twice a month, 600 milliliters of plasma each time," Liu Junshan -- chief administration officer at the Hui'tian Pharmaceutical Company, which operates three blood-collection centers -- said, adding, "Before a donor is approved, he has to be tested for hepatitis, AIDS, syphilis, etc. Moreover, his blood has to reach certain standard. Otherwise, he will be rejected."
Louisa Schein -- an associate professor of anthropology at Rutgers University who has researched and provided aid to communities in Guizhou -- said that testing at many clinics in the province is not stringent, increasing the risk of HIV transmission.
The issue is complicated in Guizhou because the province has an increasing number of heroin users, according to the World Health Organization's office in Beijing.
According to an HIV/AIDS advocate identified as Zhang, heroin users in the province often are HIV-positive, engage in commercial sex work, share contaminated needles and sell their blood at collection centers.
The Guizhou government has said that it is investing in HIV/AIDS education and awareness, according to the Globe. Officials would not comment on blood-collection centers in the province (Pocha, Boston Globe, 3/1).