China experiencing 'blood famine'

Feb 17, 2015, 4:47 PM EST
Bags of donated blood are pictured at Korle Bu hospital's blood centre on September 5, 2014 in Accra, Ghana.
CHRIS STEIN/AFP/Getty Images

China is experiencing such shortages of blood in hospitals that patients are turning to "blood heads" who give them access to state blood banks. The "blood famine" is creating a black market in China's healthcare system. Reuters reports:

The blood "famine", as it has been dubbed, is an unintended consequence of China's attempts to restore faith in the nation's scandal-stained blood supply and encourage people to donate.
 
In the late 1980s and 1990s, local officials urged farmers to sell their blood and plasma, and an earlier generation of blood heads sold this to hospitals and blood banks. Tens if not hundreds of thousands contracted HIV through unhygienic practices in the process.
 
A second scandal in 2011 further depressed donations. A young woman who claimed she worked at the Red Cross Society of China posted online pictures of her lavish lifestyle, damaging the image of a charity that helps the government collect blood.
 
In the mid-1990s, China started shuttering commercial blood stations and in 1998 it introduced a blood donation law, banning the commercial sale of blood and encouraging voluntary donation. It also tightened rules on plasma collection and increased blood testing.
 
 
Thus, as per the new guidelines, people who are incapable of donating blood cannot access blood banks and this encouraged the prohibited people to get blood supply with the help of blood heads. According to local sources, illegitimately obtained blood is quite expensive and a 100 cc blood costs $150 on an average. To replenish its blood supply, China is trying other ways like inviting the military and students to participate in blood-letting activities, sponsored by the national blood bank.
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