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HIV-Infected Army Vet in Miami Fights Back

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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."

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