Man Who Contracted HIV From Blood Transfusion Plans to Sue Florida Blood Supplier
One of the two people in Tampa Bay, Fla., who became infected with HIV through a blood transfusion is suing Florida Blood Services, the not-for-profit agency that collected and screened the blood, the St. Petersburg Times reports (Allison/Nohlgren, St. Petersburg Times, 7/24). FDA and state officials announced last week that they are investigating FBS after the blood agency said that two people had contracted HIV after being treated with contaminated blood products. The blood, which tested negative for HIV, was taken in March from a regular donor, who tested positive for the virus in May. Because the March donation tested negative for the virus, officials believe that the donor had just contracted HIV when he or she made the donation. After a person acquires HIV, it can take seven to 10 days for the body to produce antibodies to HIV that are detectable by standard blood tests (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/22). A lawyer for the man, who received the blood in March during abdominal surgery, and his son sent a letter to the blood agency on Friday announcing his intention to file suit.
Corey Dubin, president of the Committee of 10,000, a group that represents hemophiliacs who contracted HIV through the blood supply before new testing standards were introduced in 1985, said the man will face an "uphill battle" to prove that FBS was negligent in screening the blood because of laws such as Florida's Blood Shield Law, which "generally ... protec[t]" blood banks that perform the best-available tests on donated blood. Under the Florida law, blood is not considered a commodity for sale and does not carry the same liability as other products. The law and the courts have also protected the confidentiality of donors, making it difficult to collect testimony on whether they were properly screened. "You've got to get an open-minded judge who will apply the law very fairly. We had judges that didn't understand the technical aspects of it. That can be a problem. And there are a lot of hurdles to get over," he said. Steve Barnes, the lawyer representing the man, who is in his 20s, and his young son, said he is aware of the law, but said it provides protection "only if the donor's HIV could not be detected scientifically." The HIV was not detected by the standard test FBS used, but "there is a procedure they could have used that would have detected it," Barnes said, declining to offer further details. FBS has denied any wrongdoing. "We have done everything we felt was possible to do. To our knowledge ... we don't see where there has been any kind of variance in the way we conduct our business," J.B. Gaskins, vice president of marketing, communications and donor services at FBS, said (St. Petersburg Times, 7/24).