Eleven more people were exposed to HIV after responding to a traffic accident in Kom Tum province, with 35 people altogether exposed to the virus altogether (Photo: zing.vn)

Hanoi (VNA) - Eleven more people were exposed to HIV after responding to a traffic accident in Kom Tum province, with 35 people altogether exposed to the virus altogether.

The information was announced on July 3 by Nguyen Van Don, head of the HIV/AIDs and Addiction Treatment Department under the Kon Tum HIV/AIDS Prevention Centre.

The 35 people included 24 medical staff, one from Kon Tum province’s Police and 10 local residents.

Kon Tum HIV/AIDS Prevention Centre Director Nguyen Thi Dieu Thuy said the 35 people were thought to have come into contact with the blood of a 51-year-old HIV-infected female victim in a severe accident on June 30. She was one of four fatalities in a head-on collision between two coaches. Neither the local residents taking her to the hospital, along with the 12 other injured victims, nor the medical staff trying to save her were aware of her condition.

Don said that the 35 were given free antiretroviral (ARV) medicine 24 hours post-exposure, earlier than the recommended time frame of 72 hours.

Blood tests on the 35 people were negative, but confirmation on whether they were infected with HIV must await final results from the Tay Nguyen Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, he said.

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Don said the chances anyone contracted HIV were low. The HIV-infected victim had been receiving ARV treatment on a regular basis, Don said, so the concentration of the virus in her bodily fluids was very low.  

One of the local residents who took the HIV patient to the hospital on Saturday morning wrote a Facebook post, complaining that he was asked to buy the ARV medicine at 5 million VND (220 USD).

The Facebook account user, Le Tung, said that he used his family’s truck to help take eight victims of the accident to the hospital, one of whom was dead with an open wound. While lifting her to the truck, her blood was smeared onto a scratch on his body.

After learning that she was HIV positive, he went to a hospital asking for the ARV medicine. “But a doctor there said that the medicine was not for ordinary folks but public servants only. I who saved people will have to pay 5 million VND a (ARV) drink. May I ask who still dares to save people or do we just let the authorities do the saving work?” Tung wrote.

Nguyen Dinh Anh, Head of the Communications Department of the Ministry of Health, told Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper that he was enraged. “We are working to identify which doctor did this and asking the Kon Tum health department to handle it strictly,” Anh said.

HIV/AIDS Prevention Department head Hoang Dinh Canh said that according to regulations, only public servants are eligible for free ARV medicine post-exposure. “However, the doctor should have asked his superiors in such circumstances,” he said.

The Facebook user eventually received free ARV medicine and was nominated for a reward by the provincial HIV/AIDS Prevention Centre for his heroic act in rescuing the accident victims.-VNA