Background: Sporadic reports of HIV-1 infection among commercial plasma donors in China between 1994 and 1995.

Objectives: (1) To determine the prevalence of HIV infection among repeat plasma donors; (2) to identify factors associated with HIV infection; and (3) to describe characteristics associated with secondary transmission.

Methods: Plasma/blood donors who had a history of donating plasma/blood before March 1, 1995, their spouses, and their children under 5 years were recruited for a cross-sectional study. A questionnaire and an HIV test were collected anonymously. Information collected included demographic characteristics, sexual behaviour, recreational drug use and history of medical care and blood/plasma donation. HIV antibody was identified by the Hema-Strip rapid test and confirmed by Western blot. The prevalence of HIV infection was calculated and risk factors associated with infection determined by univariate analyses followed by multivariate modelling.

Results: A total of 1517 individuals were interviewed and tested, of whom 1043 adults admitted to donating plasma. The prevalence of HIV infection among plasma donors was 12.5% and among their non-donor spouses was 2.1%. Prevalence was inversely related to educational level and was higher in married participants, but was not associated with medical care, drug abuse or multiple sexual partners. A higher frequency of plasma donation was directly associated with a higher risk of HIV infection. Multivariate analyses demonstrated that being HIV-positive was associated with being 30 to 49 years old [odds ratio (OR) = 1.9], donating both plasma and blood (OR = 2.5), and the frequency of plasma donation (OR = 14 for >10 donations per month).

Conclusion: The study demonstrated that the prevalence of HIV infection in the commercial plasma donor population was alarmingly high. Many married individuals and those getting married in the future will transmit the virus to their spouses and future children. Plasma donors need to be alerted to the risk of being infected with HIV and of transmitting HIV to their families and others. Other countries can benefit from the experience of China in reducing the risk of HIV transmission from plasma donating.