HIV study expected in two months

A PRELIMINARY report on the HIV infection of haemophiliacs through the use of blood products is expected to be released in two months, Director of Health Dr Lee Shiu-hung revealed yesterday.

In reviewing the department's past year performance, Dr Lee said the public could submit its opinions to a newly-formed ad hoc group on the issue commissioned by the Government.

He welcomed professional bodies and interested groups including the Hongkong Haemophiliac Association to put forward their views and proposals.

The move follows the launch of a campaign by the Sunday Morning Post seeking compensation for 61 haemophiliacs, including 26 children, who were infected with HIV through blood transfusions or the use of blood products before screening was introduced in 1985.

Dr Lee, however, declined to comment on the current debates on compensation.

After studying the final report from the ad hoc group, the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Mrs Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, will seek suggestions from the Advisory Council on AIDS to see if changes were necessary.

The major tasks of the ad hoc group include: Establishing the facts regarding treatment of blood products in Hongkong in relation to the prevention of HIV transmission at that time; Examining the adequacy of such treatment, having regard to internationally accepted standards at the time; Assessing the extent to which haemophiliacs in Hongkong have been infected by HIV through transfusion of such contaminated products and identify the source of such infection; And making recommendations to the Secretary for Health and Welfare for the assistance of haemophiliacs who contracted HIV through the use of blood products in Hongkong.

Dr Lee pointed out that although interim findings could be available in two months, final results would take four months to complete. He said the ad hoc group had yet to hold its first meeting.

The group, chaired by the head of Microbiology at the University of Hongkong Professor M. H. Ng, comprises eight other members including Mrs Peggy Lam Pei Yu-dja from the Hongkong AIDS Foundation; the director of Hongkong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Services, Dr Susan Leong; a lawyer, representatives from the Department of Health and the Health and Welfare Branch and two AIDS specialists.

The Department of Health provides psychological counselling services to patients and their families as well as medical support.

Dr Lee stressed that there were frequent meetings between department's doctors and the haemophiliacs association in explaining the importance and methods to prevent the spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, 10 new HIV cases have been reported in Macau since the enclave started compulsory checks on foreign prostitutes in November.

Macau Public Health officials did not specify their nationalities or further details apart from saying they were all workers employed at night spots.

The latest cases bring the total number of AIDS patients and carriers in the enclave to 20. At least four who developed full-blown AIDS have died.

Macau's 4,000 foreign prostitutes - mostly from Thailand, the Philippines, China, Singapore, South Korea and Russia - have to be tested every three months.

The compulsory checks also found 26 cases of venereal disease.