4th VA Patient Has HIVApr 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The number of veterans who have tested positive for HIV and other life-threatening pathogens following shoddy colonoscopies and endoscopies at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals has risen from three to four this week. Now, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed a fourth person has tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
This brings the number of positive AIDS tests to two from the VA hospital in Miami and one each from Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Augusta, Georgia VA hospitals, said the AP. The VA said it is looking into issues with cleaning medical equipment used for colonoscopies and also for equipment used for ear, nose, and throat examinations at three of its hospitals located in the Southeast, said the AP. And, while the VA says it is unable to confirm if the cases are connected to treatment at its sites, the AP noted that the VA warned nearly 11,000 veterans who received care at those hospitals to undergo blood testing. Many believe dirty equipment is to blame.
HIV and hepatitis B and C are spread by contact with infected body fluids, especially blood. HIV—the human immunodeficiency virus—is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome); AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. Hepatitis B and C are liver diseases that can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Vaccines exist only for hepatitis B. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C can all be fatal.
The shoddy tests were conducted as far back as five years ago and put patients at risk because they were treated with equipment that was not appropriately sterilized, thus exposing them to the bodily fluids of other patients, noted the AP. The VA acknowledged in its warnings letters to the over 10,000 veterans who received the invasive procedures that they were potentially exposed to other patients’ bodily fluids and should be tested for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, said the AP in an earlier report. Also, the VA admitted in late March that water tubes and reservoirs it used in colonoscopies and endoscopies were rinsed—not disinfected—between procedures, which could expose subsequent patients to contamination.
According to an earlier VA statement, reported the AP, the number of so-called "potentially affected" patients totals 10,797, including, it said, 6,387 who underwent colonoscopies at Murfreesboro, 3,341 who underwent colonoscopies at Miami, and another 1,069 who were treated at Augusta’s ear, nose, and throat clinic.
In an earlier Washington Times article, the VA admitted that the three hospitals did not appropriately sterilize colonoscopy equipment on a variety of occasions since 2003. Also, WSMV said in an earlier report that, late last year the VA found a wrong tubing valve might have been used during procedures as far back as April 2003, which could have resulted in body fluid transmission between patients.
In addition to the four patients who now test positive for HIV, there have been six positive results for hepatitis B and 20 for hepatitis C at the three VA clinics, said the AP. At least one patient consulted with malpractice attorneys and more are expected.