Days after the transfusion of HIV infected blood to a pregnant woman in Virudhunagar district left the state shocked, a similar allegation surfaced in Chennai. A 30-year-old woman from Mangadu has accused the Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) of infecting her with the virus during a blood transfusion she underwent at the institute in May, when she was five months pregnant. The hospital has, however, denied the allegation and stated that blood given to the woman has been found free of the HIV virus.
Lalitha*, who has a five-year-old son, told the media on Friday that she was initially getting treatment at a primary health care centre in Mangadu. Four months into her pregnancy in March, she did a blood test at the Sri Muthukumaran Medical College Hospital & Research Institute. The results said that she was HIV non-reactive or negative but her heamoglobin count was found to be very low. Following this she was taken to KMC on May 5 and given two units of blood. She was discharged 10 days later after the doctors saw improvement in her platelet count. But on August 18, when Lalitha and her husband Kumaran* went back to KMC for a checkup, doctors conducted another blood test on both of them. While Kumaranâ€™s tests said he was HIV negative, Lalitha tested positive for the virus.
"We were sure that we got the virus from the hospital, since we had earlier results that show my wife didn't have it," says Kumaran to TNM. "When we questioned the hospital staff, they told us that there was not much that could be done now since she got it. They argued that they were not responsible for her condition. Some of the staff even told us that we won't be able to fight the case in court, since we did not have the money to," he alleges.
Both Kumaran and his wife are vegetable sellers. The child, a boy, was then born in September in KMC and has so far, tested negative for the virus. In November, Lalitha then wrote to Health Minister Vijayabhaskar, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan and to the Dean of KMC alleging medical negligence. She further requested that the government give her financial aid as the hospital was responsible for her state.
"We were scared to go to the media or the public with this issue as the disease carries too much stigma," says Kumaran. "But now after the Virudhunagar incident, we decided that we need to do something. Plus, none of the parties we wrote to, responded to our request," he adds.
Kilpauk Dean P Vasanthamani however denies this allegation.
"As soon we got the complaint, a committee was formed and an inquiry conducted into the matter. The blood that we received was labelled negative, we even tested the donor again and know that he doesn't carry the virus," she says. "It could not have come from an infected syringe because we used disposable ones," she adds.
Then how were there discrepancies between tests taken in March and August?
"We doubted the authenticity of the first test that was taken for HIV (at Sri Muthukumaran Medical College Hospital & Research Institute). Usually when tested for HIV, a number is allotted to the patient but this result had no number. That is why we tested the couple again and found her to be HIV positive," says the Dean. "We can't speculate on how she contracted the virus. All we can say is that the blood we gave her was screened and is definitely not the cause for her infection."