Three have HIV after exposure at VA hospital

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Three patients exposed to contaminated medical equipment at Veterans Affairs hospitals have tested positive for HIV, the agency said Friday.

Initial tests show one patient each from VA medical facilities in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Augusta, Ga., and Miami has the virus that causes AIDS, according to a VA statement.

The three cases include one positive HIV test reported earlier this month, but the VA didn't identify the facility involved at the time.

The patients are among more than 10,000 getting tested because they were treated with endoscopic equipment that wasn't properly sterilized and exposed them to other people's body fluids.

Vietnam veteran Samuel Mendes, 60, said he was surprised to learn of an HIV case linked to the Miami facility, where he had a colonoscopy. He was told he wasn't among those at risk.

"I was hoping and expecting to not get anyone contaminated like that," he said. "It's probably a little worse than we thought."

The VA also said there have been six positive tests for the hepatitis B virus and 19 positive tests for hepatitis C at the three locations. There's no way to prove patients were exposed to the viruses at its facilities, the agency said.

"These are not necessarily linked to any endoscopy issues, and the evaluation continues," the statement said.

The VA has said it does not yet know if veterans treated with the same kind of equipment at its other 150 hospitals may have been exposed to the same mistake before the department had a nationwide safety training campaign.

An agency spokeswoman has said the mistake with the equipment was corrected nationwide by the time the campaign ended March 14. The problems discovered in December date back more than five years at the Murfreesboro and Miami hospitals.

VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts has declined to provide any details on how widespread the problems might have been, other than saying a review of the situation continues.

Three have HIV after exposure at VA hospital 04/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 10:59pm]

    

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