British Soldiers, Civilian Contractors Undergo HIV, Hepatitis C Screenings

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Eighteen British soldiersand six civilian contractors who received donated blood from the U.S. Department of Defense following injuries in either Iraqor Afghanistan are being tested for HIV, hepatitis and other infections becausethe blood had not been properly screened, London's Guardian reports.

According to the Guardian, DOD had not tested the donors after theblood had been given to the British personnel. The soldiers and contractorsreceived U.S. blood becausethey were treated at U.S.field hospitals, according to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. All of the soldiers have been contacted (Norton-Taylor, Guardian,1/11). The U.K. Health Protection Agency has alerted the generalpractitioners of the six civilian contractors about the incident; however, itis unclear whether the GPs have alerted the recipients.

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The recipients are being offered counseling and testing for HIV, hepatitis Cand other diseases, according to the PA/Google.com. According to DOD, the blood donorshave tested negative for HIV and hepatitis C. U.K. Defence Minister Derek Twiggsaid that the soldiers "almost certainly" would have died if they hadnot received the transfusions. He added that the risk of infection is"low" but that the situation is being taken "extremelyseriously" (PA/Google.com, 1/11). The error, which was discovered lastmonth, likely is the result of "poor record keeping," according tothe U.K. Ministry of Defence.

Reaction

A spokesperson for DOD saidthe department does not have the resources or time to properly screen blooddonors during combat situations, the Guardian reports (Guardian,1/11). U.K. Defence Secretary Des Brown said the ministry "acted quicklyand promptly to establish who might be involved" after learning about theerror.

The error drew criticism from hemophiliacs who contracted HIV or hepatitis Cafter receiving contaminated blood in the late 1970s and 1980s, the Yorkshire Post reports. Chris James, CEO of the Haemophilia Society, said it was "extremely worrying"that the soldiers and contractors had been exposed to an"unacceptable" risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C (YorkshirePost, 1/11).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.

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