Authorities announced on Thursday that five patients have been infected with HIV after a hospital in eastern China violated procedures on the use of syringes.

A technical staffer at the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine violated procedures stating that each syringe could only be used for injections once, with one patient, before disposal.

Zhejiang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine. Photo: Weibo.

News of the incident emerged days after China announced that it will double the number of AIDS patients it treats with traditional Chinese medicine.

‘Serious medical accident’

The Zhejiang Health and Family Planning Commission called the incident a “serious medical accident,” and said it is conducting blood tests on all relevant patients at the hospital, based in the provincial capital Hangzhou. It did not say how many patients were possibly exposed to the virus.

The incident reportedly came to the attention of the commission after the hospital notified it on January 26. The commission said that the hospital has since suspended its director and the head of its Communist Party committee, among other staff.

Police have also begun investigating the incident as a suspected criminal case of a medical accident.

post on internet forum Douban claimed that the procedure leading to the infections was a form of treatment for recurrent miscarriages. It involved retrieving lymphocytes in from the blood of males and injecting them into females.

It claimed that the infections took place because one male contracted HIV through unprotected sex, then later took part in the treatment.

aids hiv
File photo: Pixabay.

Common practice?

Commentary on the government-controlled Beijing News, which has since been taken offline, speculated that many other hospitals in China were also re-using syringes.

“If we follow the logic of the ‘one man, one syringe, one disposal’ regulations, then the number of procedures per day should highly correspond with the number of disposals per day,” it read. “But very rarely [is this the case] in hospitals.”

“The fact that one violation can lead to five infections means that the syringe has not only been re-used once.”

“In the past, violations have been ignored, because investments into [preventing] hospital infections have often not seen immediate results. Medical violations, however, have not always led to deserved consequences.”

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.