Feb. 3, 2004 – Government House announced in a release late Tuesday afternoon that the HIV test specimens from St. John that disappeared last summer at the HIV clinic on St. Thomas have been found, but it provided no details and said that none will be forthcoming while an investigation into the matter is under way.
The release said that Darlene Carty, acting Health commissioner, received a report from someone within the Health Department's HIV/STD/TB program on Jan. 28 that the missing samples, the subject of an investigation by the V.I. Office of Inspector General last fall, "had been located."
Carty took possession of the box containing the specimens and then turned it over to the chief inspector of the Office of Inspector General, the release said. "The box and its contents are currently in the custody of the Inspector General," and his office "has initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the box," it said.
The release cited Carty as saying that "to ensure the integrity of this investigation, further details cannot be disclosed. The department shall report to the public when the circumstances so permit."
In December, the V.I. Inspector General's Office issued a report of its earlier investigation into the disappearance of the samples and related confidential information from 22 persons. (See "Human error cited in missing HIV test samples".)
According to the report, investigators traced the transport of the samples, obtained on June 28 at a Coral Bay site, to the Westin Resort, where a nurse practitioner in charge of the materials stayed before returning to the HIV clinic on St. Thomas. The last time anyone reported seeing the samples at the clinic was on July 2, the day before it closed for the Emancipation Day-Independence Day holidays. On July 11, during a confrontation involving members of the clinic staff, it became public knowledge that the samples were missing, the report said.
Tuesday's release said that the Health Department is working with the Inspector General's Office to ascertain information and "determine if legal action is warranted."
Carty expressed her regret to the persons whose samples went missing and to the public in general and said steps have been taken to see that such a thing does not occur again.
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