In order to ensure the supply of safe blood to patients in
Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service
(BTS) carries out tests for infectious diseases, including
test for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), on each unit of
According to the blood donation guidelines of BTS, any person
who has a higher risk of being infected with viruses due to
certain behaviours (e.g. a man who has had sex with another
man) should not give blood.
In this connection, will the Government inform this
the number of cases in the past 10 years of HIV infections
suspected to be caused by blood transfusion; whether BTS had
conducted investigations to see if the blood concerned had
passed the infectious disease tests and if the blood donors
concerned had violated the blood donation guidelines;
whether any mechanism is in place to monitor the compliance
with the blood donation guidelines by persons who wish to give
blood, so as to ensure blood safety; and
given that some countries (e.g. the United States and New
Zealand) allow a man who did not have sex with another man in
the past 12 months to give blood, whether it knows if BTS will
review its practice of imposing lifetime deferral on that type
of persons; if BTS will, of the details; if not, the reasons
The Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service (BTS)
provides blood supplies for public and private hospitals in
Hong Kong. It is
committed to ensuring blood safety and taking measures to
prevent blood recipients from acquiring
My reply to the question raised by the Professor Hon
Joseph Lee relating to the measures to ensure blood safety is
BTS has not received any local cases of Human
Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) infection caused by blood
transfusion in the past 10 years.
prevent blood recipients from acquiring
transfusion-transmitted infection, all blood donors are
required to fill in a health questionnaire each and every time
before donation and go through a rigorous screening process.
They are asked to honestly answer the questions in the
questionnaire, which cover, inter alia, current and past
health status, lifestyle and travel history, so as to help the
BTS ensure the safety of the blood collected from the donors.
In addition, with an automated testing system, the BTS tests
all the blood collected for viruses of blood-borne infectious
existing test items include HIV antibodies, antigen and
ribonucleic acid (RNA), Hepatitis B surface antigen and
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), Hepatitis C antibodies and RNA,
Human T-Lymphotropic Virus antibodies and Syphilis antibodies.
Although the tests conducted by the BTS are up to
international standard, there is still limitation in testing
technology and hence some diseases cannot be detected during
the early stage of infection.
This is commonly referred to as the “window period”.
Therefore, apart from relying on the current tests for
infectious diseases, the BTS has to implement stringent
measures in screening donors in order to minimise patients’
risks of acquiring transfusion-transmitted infection.
As for HIV test, with advances in technology, the BTS
started to conduct Nucleic Acid Testing on the blood samples
of all donors in 2007 and the window period for detecting HIV
infection in donated blood was then reduced to six days.
Moreover, the BTS has set up a 24-hour hotline.
Blood donors may contact the medical staff of the BTS
if they consider the blood they have donated not suitable for
BTS will take expeditious follow-up actions accordingly.
ensure blood safety, the BTS conducts health enquiries on
donors and implements a blood donor screening policy.
The screening policy was formulated according to the
guidelines of the Hospital Authority (BTS) Expert Panel on
Blood and Blood Products Safety with a view to ensuring blood
safety and blood donors’ health.
The BTS and the expert panel will review from time to
time the guidelines on blood donor screening with reference to
local and overseas data and guidelines and revise the
guidelines where appropriate.
The BTS has noted that in recent years individual countries,
including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the
United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Switzerland and Canada, have
amended their screening policies of deferral of blood donation
by men who have sex with men (MSM).
It has also noted that some countries or regions have
started discussion on amending their policies of permanent
deferral of blood donation by MSM.
While its policy guidelines on permanent deferral of
blood donation by MSM have been adopted for years, the BTS has
kept monitoring local and overseas scientific data, and
examining the relationship of changing the deferral period
with blood safety.