HONGKONG looks set to eradicate the risk of HIV infection through cornea transplants by relying solely on corneas donated locally. The medical director of the Hongkong Eye Bank and Research Foundation, Professor Patrick Ho, said yesterday a recent increase in the number of donors could soon mean there would be enough corneas for a year. HIV antibody tests cannot be done on corneas themselves, making it impossible to screen donations from overseas. Such tests on donors' blood can only be done soon after death. Professor Ho said: ''A local supply is under better quality control as all donors will have to undergo HIV antibody testing.'' Some eye banks in California had to abandon up to half of their reserves because of infection with the HIV virus, he said. But Professor Ho pointed out that so far, no patients had been reported to have been infected with the killer disease after receiving cornea transplants. Sri Lankan medical authorities, which formerly supplied about 100 corneas to Hongkong each year, turned down Professor Ho's requests to have donors screened. Professor Ho said corneas from local donors were also screened for diseases such as hepatitis. The eye bank, which only collects donations from the Prince of Wales Hospital, received 12 eyes in January and another 10 in the first half of this month. Between 100 and 120 are needed each year. In the past 10 years, the bank had received eyes from only 10 people locally. ''[The increase] is mainly because of the wide publicity and our team's efforts,'' Professor Ho said. ''I think it is a matter of culture. The eye bank was actually set up 30 years ago. But it started to become a real eye bank to collect donations from the territory in 1992.'' He said there would be more donations if the eye bank co-ordinator was kept better informed by hospitals. He urged the Hospital Authority to notify the eye bank immediately after patients died as an automatic administrative procedure. In the first half of this month, the families of only a fifth of the 92 people who died in the Prince of Wales were told about the eye bank. With better co-ordination, Professor Ho said the teaching hospital of Chinese University alone could supply corneas for the whole territory. From April to December in 1992, 1,620 patients died in the Prince of Wales and only 99 families were approached by the eye bank with 13 donations resulting. Cornea problems can be the result of old age, injury, infection, inflammation, illness, scarring during surgery or complications from wearing contact lenses.