HIV man takes on blood service

2010-03-15 00:00

A MAN who contracted the HI virus through a blood transfusion in 2003 will today ask the Pietermaritzburg High Court to order the SA National Blood Services to release information they claim is confidential, but that he alleges is vital for the preparation of his case.

The claimant — who cannot be named due to his HIV status — alleges in court papers that he has a constitutional right to have access to the information.

He also alleges the only reason the SA National Blood Services is refusing to divulge it is so as “not to alarm and alert the general public of the flaws and inconsistent screening processes administered by them”.

“I see no other plausible explanation for them to object to the release of the information.”

The man said he has been informed, via attorneys acting for the SANBS, that the information is privileged and protected by the Human Tissue Act of 1983, and that they are under no obligation to let him have the documents.

Oral evidence is due to begin today in the main trial, in which he is seeking damages totalling more than R2,6 million arising from the HIV infection.

His attorney, Sundeep Singh, confirmed yesterday that the case is due to proceed today on the question of whether or not the SANBS is liable for damages, as they have disputed liability.

In his affidavit, the plaintiff says HIV-infected blood was transfused to him after he had heart-bypass surgery at St Augustine’s hospital on September 20, 2003.

After the operation, the SANBS sent a letter, dated October 30 2003, to his doctor informing him that one of the donors of the blood given to him had tested HIV-positive. However, the letter also stated that the unit of blood given to him had “tested negative for all viral markers” and that the risk to him was “minimal”.

The plaintiff says that prior to his admission for surgery he had tested negative for HIV. After receiving the letter, more tests were conducted, which revealed that he had become HIV-positive.

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