A federal advisory committee has recommended against any automatic or compulsory recall or destruction of blood products found to contain the blood of a victim of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Instead, one adviser to the committee, Dr. Vincent Garagusi, chief of infectious diseases at Georgetown University Hospital, called for more intense public education and screening of blood donors to discourage donations from groups at high risk from the disease.
The message that needs to be repeated and repeated, Garagusi said, is: "If you're a homosexual, if you're a drug abuser, please don't give your blood."
AIDS is the mysterious, sometimes blood-borne disease that has infected 1,641 Americans, 644 of them fatally, since 1981.
Because the disease has struck 16 hemophiliacs, who must have regular blood product transfusions to stay alive, the National Hemophilia Foundation has urged the recall of any blood product found to have come in any part from an actual or suspected AIDS patient.
Six persons who have received one or more blood transfusions as part of ordinary medical or surgical treatment also have contracted AIDS and "12 more cases are suspicious," according to Dr. William Miller, chairman of the federal advisory committee.
Given these facts, Dr. Leon Hoyer of the University of Connecticut, chairman of the hemophilia foundation's medical advisory committee, said any plasma or blood product "derived from a patient later diagnosed as having AIDS has to be considered infectious."
But the federal committee members, mainly professors and blood specialists at major university medical centers and health departments, generally argued that any government statement now to that effect would cause unnecessary fear and do more harm than good.
Rather than using whole blood or blood plasma, blood recipients today may get packed or concentrated red blood cells or blood plasma or one of several "fractionated" parts of the plasma. Among blood factors are the anti-hemophilia factors (AHF) that some 15,000 hemophiliacs must get to survive.
The AHF that a hemophiliac gets is made by pooling the blood of as many as 20,000 donors. "I think the pooling and dilution" of any infectious blood that might be donated "probably will protect" virtually anyone who receives it, Garagusi said.