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China to Promote Donation Work for Blood Safety

More Chinese citizens should become blood donors so that the risk of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis epidemics through blood transfusion can be lowered in China, according to the country's legislators and leading health officials.

China's HIV/AIDS situation has reached a critical point, and transfusion of contaminated blood is especially dangerous, said Peng Peiyun, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

"However, the spread of AIDS through blood can be controlled if the blood for clinical use comes solely from donations," said Peng,who is also the president of the Red Cross Society of China, at a meeting Thursday in Guangzhou to cite more than 1,000 outstanding individuals and units in the national blood donation drive.

The figure of HIV infection cases in China is estimated to stand between 600,000 and 800,000, about six percent of which were caused by contaminated blood, the Ministry of Health revealed in August this year.

The safety of blood transfusion can be remarkably increased when the blood comes from approved donors. But the work to promote blood donation was less inspirational in China before 1998, thoughthe campaign was launched in the 1980s.

The suggestion that donating blood might be harmful to health was often used by many people as an excuse for refusing to donate,health officials complained. Those who were organized by work units to "donate" blood could often get cash and time off work as a kind of compensation.

"Such practices not only go against humanitarian principles, but also force hospitals to depend on commercial blood deals, which potentially endanger the safety of blood," said Peng, who has long supported the cause of blood donation as an influential lawmaker.

The NPC Standing Committee passed a law on blood donation in 1998 and the work of blood donation has since been greatly promoted, said Health Minister Zhang Wenkang.

Twenty-six provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have passed local regulations to ensure the implementation of the law, and many government officials took the lead in blood donation,he said. A survey in 25 provinces showed that about 45 percent of the blood for clinical use now is provided by donors. In 75 major cities such as Shenzhen, Harbin and Taiyuan, the blood used in hospitals was 100 percent donated.

"More than three years ago, the portion of donated blood was almost zero," said Jia Guanjun, director of Harbin Red Cross Blood Center. Zhang Wenkang attributed the rapid changes to successful law enforcement, widespread education, and model roles played by government employees, soldiers and college students. "Huge enthusiasm can be stirred among the public once they understand the meaning of blood donation. We have had many good examples of this," he said.

In order to ensure the quality of blood donation, the Chinese government allocated 1.25 billion yuan (about US$150 million) this year to upgrade facilities and improve service in blood centers and stations across the country. All workers of blood centers will receive training programs starting next year, according to Yi Mei, an MOH official in charge of blood safety management.

(People's Daily December 14, 2001)

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