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U.S. News

VA: Three Patients HIV-Positive After Clinic Mistake

April 21, 2009

Veterans Affairs said Friday that initial tests show one patient each from its facilities in Miami; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Augusta, Ga. has tested positive for HIV following exposure to potentially contaminated medical equipment. VA spokesperson Katie Roberts said the three HIV cases "still need to be verified" by additional tests.

The sites failed to properly sterilize endoscopy equipment, placing some patients -- 6,387 who had colonoscopies at Murfreesboro; 3,341 who had colonoscopies at Miami; and 1,069 who were treated at the ear, nose, and throat clinic in Augusta -- at risk of blood-borne infections. There have also been six positive tests for hepatitis B and 19 for hepatitis C at the three centers, the VA said.

The agency said there is no way to prove patients were exposed to the viruses at its facilities. "These are not necessarily linked to any endoscopy issues and the evaluation continues," a VA statement said.

All three sites used endoscopy equipment made by Olympus American Inc., which said it is working with the VA to address problems with "inadvertently neglecting to appropriately reprocess a specific auxiliary water tube." The infection-control lapses, discovered in December, date back more than five years at the Murfreesboro and Miami hospitals. They were corrected via a VA-wide safety training campaign that concluded March 14, said Roberts.

The VA does not yet know if veterans treated with the same kind of equipment at its other 150 facilities may have been exposed to the same problems.

In all, more than 5,400 of the 10,797 "potentially affected" patients at the three sites have been notified of their follow-up test results. The VA said it is "continuing to notify individuals whose letters have been returned as undeliverable, and working with homeless coordinators to reach veterans with no known home address." More than 100 VA employees have been assigned to the sites to "ensure that affected veterans receive prompt testing and appropriate counseling."

For more information, telephone 877-575-7266; e-mail or visit

Back to other news for April 2009

Adapted from:
Associated Press
04.17.2009; Bill Poovey

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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