A Navy veteran living in South Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration claiming he tested positive for HIV over 20 years ago and his doctors never informed him of the diagnosis.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court this week, alleges the medical staff at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA center in Columbia, South Carolina, failed to tell him an HIV test taken in 1995 came back positive. If true, the failure allowed the virus to progress for 20 years.
The veteran is referred to as “John Doe” in the filing to protect his medical privacy.
According to the local Columbia newspaper The State, the lawsuit reads, “The VA had actual knowledge beginning in November 1995 that Mr. Doe was HIV positive and the standard of care required he be informed of the positive test and proper treatment begin in 1995.”
“In clear contravention of the standard of care, Mr. Doe was not informed of the positive HIV test until decades later,” continues the filing.
The patient’s medical records reportedly mention his HIV diagnosis in subsequent visits but there’s no apparent record of the patient being informed he was HIV-positive.
‘Doe’ only learned of his status while seeing a non-VA physician who mentioned the diagnosis in passing during a December 2015 examination.
The doctor wrote in his notes, “I looked at the patient and ask (sic) him who was his infectious disease doctor, and patient states (he) did not have one and (I) ask (sic) him if he knew that his HIV test was positive, and he stated (he) never was told it was positive.”
According to reports, the veteran didn’t begin receiving antiretroviral treatment until he was admitted to a non-VA hospital in New York in 2018 at which point he had developed full-blown AIDS.
The lawsuit, which requests an unspecified amount for punitive damages, claims the man’s health and immune system are permanently affected.
“The treatment he’s getting now is effective, but he’s had essentially 25 years of wear and tear for having no treatment,” said his lawyer, Chad McGowan, told Navy Times.
“He feels extremely guilty about the girlfriends he’s had over the last 25 years because he didn’t know,” McGowan added.
Had ‘Doe’ had been informed of his status in a timely manner, McGowan says his client “would not have suffered the losses he has suffered, and will continue to suffer in the future, and more likely than not, he would not have developed AIDS.”
The medical director of the Dorn VA facility declined to comment due to the pending litigation.