Kerala girl tests HIV positive allegedly after blood transfusion

A team of medical experts on Friday began its probe into the case of a 9-year-old blood cancer patient testing HIV positive allegedly after getting a transfusion of infected blood at the Kerala Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) in Thiruvanathapuram.

On a complaint by the victim's father, Kerala health minister K K Shylaja directed the constitution of a panel headed by joint director of medical education (DME) Sreekumari to probe the matter.

The girl with leukemia was initially treated at the Alappuzha Medical College and later referred to the RCC, where she has endured many rounds of chemotherapy. Recently, her parents learnt that a blood transfusion left her HIV positive. They are yet to break the heart-breaking news to her.

The child tested negative for HIV when she was first admitted to the RCC. Six months later, the same test has confirmed their worst fears.

Noting a swelling in one of her eyes, doctors decided to carry out various tests; it was then revealed that she had contracted HIV.

"We came here for cancer treatment and are going back with HIV also," her father said.

"My child has never had any blood transfusion anywhere else. Doctors even made us do tests and we tested negative. Now the doctors are saying they will refer us to Medical College for the HIV treatment of our daughter and that she can easily have a normal life for 10-15 years...," said the shattered 43-year-old.

Shylaja said the state government would bear all expenses for further treatment of the girl. The state human rights panel has also ordered a high-level inquiry into the matter.

Kerala Human Rights Commission (acting) chairperson P Mohandas said stringent action should be taken against the hospital staff if they were found guilty. It also urged the Leftist state government to compensate the girl's family.

"The commission has ordered a high-level probe. RCC director and health secretary should submit an explanation regarding the incident within three weeks," an official release said.

The RCC authorities said the girl had approached them with the report of a blood test conducted in external laboratories, and that they have ordered an immediate departmental inquiry into the incident.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala visited the girl and her family at the hospital earlier on Friday and demanded a comprehensive probe into the incident.

According to data accessed by IndiaSpend through a Right to Information petition, between 2009 and 2016 there have been over 14,000 cases of HIV through blood transfusions in the country.