HIV-Infected Army Vet in Miami Fights Back

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Army veteran Juan Rivera has been asking some painful questions lately: "How long do I have to live? What do I do now? And gow could this happen?"

The hardworking 55-year-old long-haul truck driver -- who served his country for 13 years -- just discovered he has HIV. He contracted it during a colonoscopy at Miami Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in May 2008. The cause: dirty medical equipment.

He is one of 10,000 vets who were exposed to HIV and hepatitis B and C between 2003 and 2008 at VA centers nationally. So far, 57 have tested positive for the diseases.

Rivera recently filed an administrative claim -- the first legal action taken -- against Department of Veterans Affairs. (The paperwork preludes a federal lawsuit.)

Hospitals sanitized equipment at the end of the day rather than immediately following each procedure, says Rivera's attorney, Ira Leesfield. "There also may have also been an issue with using the wrong equipment altogether, which allowed for the backwash of fluids."

Riptide is having trouble thinking of anything more horrifying. Or irresponsible. Or completely freaking outrageous. Adds Leesfield: "These mistakes have forever altered the lives of our veteran soldiers."

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.