USAF reports service members may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis

An Air Force physical therapy element chief with the 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron, inserts a dry needle into a patients arm at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar May 15, 2017.

A US Air Force base in Qatar may be ground zero for as many as 135 patients potentially exposed to blood-borne diseases, including HIV and two forms of hepatitis.

The USAF Medical Service is notifying patients who may have been exposed due to improperly cleaned equipment, offering resolution specialists for testing and counseling if need be.

The US Air Force Surgeon General said on Monday that endoscopes used for upper and lower gastrointestinal procedures “were cleaned in a manner inconsistent with sterilization guidelines” between April 2008 and April 2016, putting 135 or so patients at risk.

“Providing quality health care to our airmen and their families is our top priority,” Brigadier General Robert Miller of the USAF Medical Operations Agency said. “We apologize to our patients and assure them that appropriate actions have been taken to address and mitigate the causes that led to this problem.”

According to the Air Force Times, the USAF has issued a service-wide patient safety alert to ensure all proper processes for sterilizing endoscopes. In addition, the Al Udeid no longer performs endoscopies or colonoscopies.

“Our patients put their trust in us when they step into any of our medical facilities,” Miller said. “We take potential risk to patient safety very seriously and are committed to informing those under our care of any increased risk.”

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