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Browne tells Khan how to improve testing of blood

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Dr Amery Browne

Dr Amery Browne has made recommendations to Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to improve systems for blood-testing at the Blood Bank. He made the recommendations after reading a T&T Guardian story about a boy who was infected with HIV after a blood transfusion for sickle-cell disease. The boy, “Kevon,” from Sangre Grande, was three at the time. He is now 16.


Browne is a doctor and former technical director of the National Aids Co-ordinating Committee. He is also the MP for Diego Martin Central, After studying the case, Browne said he spoke to Khan, who was quite open to his suggestions, one of which was viral-load testing for donated blood.


Browne explained that such a method was used in a “clinical setting” to manage the progress of a person living with HIV, and not normally used for screening blood. He also noted that in T&T viral load testing was not used for screening blood but the process was used in instances where a person was already infected with the virus to determine the level of progress or not of the virus.


“In the United States and other parts of the world, viral load-testing is done on blood that is donated and if this system is introduced in Trinidad it will further help improve the level of safety,” Browne added. Nevertheless, he said the possibility of another such case was “extremely rare,” and if viral-load testing were introduced, it would reduce that possibility even further.


Asked if he knew of any similar cases, Browne said that was the first of its kind brought to his attention locally, but similar cases existed internationally. “And those cases would have occurred when the HIV pandemic was just occurring, and there would not have been that level of testing and screening back then as we have today,” Browne said.


Theodore Guerra, SC, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kevon, charging that as a result of negligence and a blood transfusion with infected blood, the child faces a loss of expectation of life and endures constant pain, discomfort and suffering.
His mother has not told him he is HIV-positive.


Making specific reference to the case, Browne said the child had every right to know about his condition, but that must be relayed in a humane manner  through a responsible, caring person, such as a parent or a  social worker. He added: “Every child develops differently, emotionally and intellectually. The child does have the right to know, and he must get those details from someone who cares.”


He said there were many non-governmental organisations, apart from social workers, who offered free counselling services. Since the child also afflicted with sickle-cell disease, Browne said it would require closer monitoring. “There are many antiviral drugs available, and I have known children who have been born with HIV and because of treatment they are young adults today.”


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