December 07, 2016
1 min read

Veterans show up for free testing amid HIV, HCV scare

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Dozens of veterans have shown up to have their blood tested after being warned they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus at a Veterans Affairs dental clinic in Wisconsin.

The Tomah VA Medical Center notified 592 veterans last week that they were eligible for free screenings after the potential risk for infection from a VA dentist who improperly cleaned his equipment.

The number who had showed up to have their blood tested by the end of Tuesday was expected to be at least 136, Matthew Gowan, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, told Infectious Disease News.

Gowan said the 24-hour VA call center has received more than 340 calls from veterans asking for additional information since the announcement last week.

The VA categorized the risk for infection as “low” and said it was offering free screenings out of an abundance of caution. Results are expected to take 2 to 3 weeks. Any veteran found to have been infected through care by the VA dentist will be treated free of charge.

“If we get a positive result, we will first confirm it and the veteran will also be notified,” Gowan said. “The sample will then be sent for further genomic testing to confirm it was the dental exposure that caused the infection.”

The clinic set up for testing will remain open until Dec. 22. After that, veterans can call their primary care physician to arrange an appointment.

The Tomah VA announced that the dentist implicated in what it called “lapses in established infection control practices” chose to resign instead of appearing in front of a summary review board.

The dentist was removed from practice on Oct. 21 after a year with the Tomah VA.

Disclosures: Gowan is a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.