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January 21, 2010

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80 patients got HIV in transfusions at hospital

AT least 80 AIDS patients contracted HIV in a central China hospital because of tainted blood supplies 12 years ago, and authorities have started talks on compensating them.

The patients received blood transfusions during surgery at Daye No.2 Hospital of Hubei Province, the Wuhan Morning Post reported yesterday.

They are the largest single group of patients in China to contract HIV at a hospital where they were treated.

The afflicted patients, who had surgery between 1996 and 1997, were infected because part of the hospital's blood storage was unknowingly taken from HIV-infected illegal blood sellers, Xu Chunyang, vice head of the hospital, said.

Xu confirmed nearly 100 patients were infected with the incurable disease because of chaotic blood supply in the 1990s. He said some people may have unknowingly passed the virus to their spouses.

The last patient to be found infected with the disease was a 38-year-old Hubei native whom the newspaper identified with the pseudonym Zhang Kai.

After discovering the diagnosis in a blood test in September, he told the newspaper that it "smashed his normal life into pieces."

Local disease control authorities confirmed that Zhang's HIV infection was linked to the blood transfusion he received in the hospital in 1997 when he was injured in a car accident.

After being treated in the hospital, he was haunted by all kinds of strange illnesses, the report said. Zhang said he spent over 70,000 yuan (US$10,245) on medication over the 12 years, yet never fully regained his health.

Most neighbors of the Zhangs stopped talking with the family, fearing infection. Zhang was forced to transfer his son to another school out of the town, the report said.

One neighbor, surnamed Yang, said though government officials repeatedly told people that the virus would not be transmitted through normal daily contact, many of the villagers moved out of the town.

Zhang sought compensation from the hospital for four months, but was told the hospital could not afford it.

The hospital finally agreed to give him 100,000 yuan, yet Zhang is demanding 600 yuan every month to cover his livelihood and a job for his son, arguing it is the hospital's fault that he is unable to hold a job to support his family.

Xu said the hospital has borrowed about 8 million yuan to cover the claims by the infected patients. The hospital also cut staff salaries to pay the compensation.


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