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Ann Intern Med. 2002 Feb 19;136(4):312-9.

Legal, financial, and public health consequences of HIV contamination of blood and blood products in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology of the Department of Medicine, Northwestern University, 400 East Ontario Street, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Ensuring the safety of the blood supply connects politics and science. The business and service sectors share responsibility for the collection and processing of blood donations, and government agencies perform regulatory and surveillance roles. The onset of the AIDS epidemic has challenged the interface among these systems, leading to widespread fears about compromised safety of the blood supply. Because of public concern about blood-supply decisions made in the 1980s, developed countries in the 1990s established reimbursement programs for persons with transfusion-acquired viral infections from blood or blood products, adopted diagnostic tests and procedures that improved the safety of the blood supply, and held criminal judicial investigations of government officials and industry leaders accused of delaying implementation of potential blood-safety measures. In contrast, developing countries continue to struggle with blood-supply safety issues. This paper summarizes the current status of these safety concerns in developed countries, where viral transmission from contaminated blood or blood products is extremely rare, and in developing countries, where up to 10% of HIV infections result from transfusion of blood or blood products.

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