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AFRO-NETS> Bad Blood (10) [additional remarks from the author]
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> Bad Blood (10) [additional remarks from the author]
- From: Rico Carisch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 12:24:03 -0500 (EST)
Bad Blood (10) [additional remarks from the author]
As the principal researcher and one of the authors of the Stern story
"Bad Blood" I would like to provide some additional remarks.
By laying out the facts in as much detail as possible, I hoped, read-
ers would judge for themselves who the culprits are, where the BTS
need improvements and which organizations should take their duties
more serious, interpret their role more proactive.
Nobody takes away from Zimbabwe and Namibia, that these countries de-
spite much adverse factors, have probably created very good blood
collection and distribution systems. The people I have met at ZimNBTS
seem competent, certainly guided by the best intentions and, I m
sure, to a large extent are very able to perform an important task
for their society. Does that justify blanket approval regardless of
new questions, regardless of disturbing investigations in Europe? The
two prostitutes we reported and documented as having been donors to
ZimBTS are merely symbols for the one fact of life nobody in his
right mind can deny: there is no 100 percent safety. Constant vigi-
lance is required.
Now, judge for yourself:
The crucial point of my story is in Vienna. Containers full of
plasma, that according to all available documents, according to all
statements made by the suspects and according to the investigators
have come from Zimbabwe and Namibia via South Africa. These contain-
ers have been confiscated, the plasma was tested and found to be
tainted with HIV and Hepatitis. These facts are known since early
1997. They were reported in newspaper articles all over the world,
including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia. Letters sent by the Aus-
trian Health authorities warned WHO and many countries. There was no
reaction. Since that time, more information was made available at in-
ternational conferences. Health inspectors and operators of blood
banks have been briefed. There was still no reaction. All the in-
volved countries seemed to pretend, that the Albovina case was proba-
bly just a crazed reaction by some Austrian government employees. One
of the suspects claimed this to be "a career-enhancing opportunity
for inept government regulators". Another suspect outright sued the
Austrian representative who wrote a warning letter to WHO.
For further clarification about the reaction of those who should be
self-motivated to check into any negative allegations, look up the
media reports , for example May 16/1998. The Saturday Star reported:
An angry Dennis Connolly, general manager of the Zimbabwe Blood
Transfusion Service, was also contacted by the Saturday Star. When
asked whether his service had sent plasma disguised as originating
from another country, Connolly said: "officially we haven't". He re-
fused to discuss the matter further and, before he slammed down the
telephone, he said: "I don't enjoy this, and I don't intend talking
Nobody contacted the Austrian or Swiss investigators to inquire about
the state of the pending cases. Nobody attempted to learn how the
suspects operated. And how possible gaps in the safety systems could
be closed. Everybody just waited to be served the facts on silver
platters. Instead of investigating the allegations, instead of re-
searching all available leads and cooperating and encouraging a com-
plete audit of the involved blood banks, the responsible im-
port/export authorities, WHO now quibbles about minor points of our
story and thus attempts to devalue its findings.
In internal discussions, we know, WHO has been worried about our sto-
ries for months. Outwardly, WHO took the stance, that a) what can be
done, has been done, b) WHO has no possibility to go against crooks,
c) don't criticize Zimbabwe. Internally, a bunch of long overdue de-
cisions were made to strengthen existing recommendations and proce-
dures in the field of blood safety. These proposals had been made by
good and conscientious WHO personnel. Their superiors had shelved and
disregarded these initiatives for years. In recent months, under the
looming shadow of my impending story, these worthwhile ideas suddenly
became part of the WHO blood safety agenda. Great, I m happy for that
But the national and international parties responsible for blood
safety still are not making any attempt to get to the bottom of this
mess. How did bad plasma get out from NBTS Zimbabwe and Namibia? Who
is responsible for that? How can that safety gap be closed? And how
can the head of NBTS Zimbabwe on October 9/1998 again cut a deal with
the same plasma dealer allowing him to export huge quantities of
plasma? And why did the National Health Laboratory Services in Preto-
ria issue to the same dealer another import permit for "normal human
plasma in quantities as required"?
PS: I met most of the responsible individuals and suspects. All of
them are white.
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