More efforts will be made to increase the safety of blood transfusions to reduce patient anxiety about infected blood, officials said.
"Thanks to strict regulations and supervision and advanced technology, blood transfusions in China are generally safe," said Yi Mei, head of the Ministry of Health's Blood Administration Division, over the weekend at a news press.
However, Yi said that problems still exist in the blood transfusion service, especially in medical units in rural areas, due to the underdeveloped economy.
The ministry called on all blood centres and hospitals to pay stricter attention to the examination of blood collected before it is given to patients.
Presently, the country has about 420 official blood stations which are licensed to collect blood from the people and provide it to hospitals.
And there are about another 220 plasma collection stations in charge of supplying plasma for use in blood products.
All blood must pass a series of strict examinations before it is accepted by the centres, stations and hospitals to ensure that it is not contaminated, Yi added.
Although present laws specify severe punishments for illegally selling of blood, the collecting and selling of such blood still goes on.
The ministry has asked all its branches to work together with other departments, such as the police, to stamp out the illegal collection and sale of blood.
In the first six months of this year, 25 plasma collection stations have been closed down and another 40 have been asked to upgrade their facilities.
The central government has allocated 950 million yuan (US$115 million) to establish 250 more blood centres in central and western China's 20 provinces and regions.
Currently, the annual blood consumption in clinics in China has reached 1,300 tons and the quantity is increasing at a rate of 7 per cent annually.
But only 58.8 per cent of the blood used come from voluntary blood donations, which is the best way to ensure a supply of uncontaminated blood.
Experts say that the blood donated by people is much safer than that supplied by people who sell their blood.
In many cities, such as Shanghai and Xiamen, more than 90 per cent of the blood used in clinics comes from blood donors, and this system is going to be encouraged in rural areas.
To fight against HIV/AIDS which is estimated to have infected 600,000 people in China, all blood stations, centres and hospitals are asked to do strict examinations to avoid HIV-contaminated blood, said Zheng Xiwen, an expert with the National Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control.
(China Daily 08/06/2001)