False HIV Positive Test Cost A Man His Wife, His Job
by Nick Beres
GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. - A 47-year-old father of two said a false positive HIV test cost him his family and his job. Now he's proven he's healthy, but says he still can't clear his name.
"I was devastated. I thought it was the end of the world. I thought I was going to die," said Sean Smith.
Earlier this year Smith went to give plasma in Goodlettsville, but after the staff ran his name through a data base they turned him away.
"They told me I was HIV positive and they couldn't accept by blood," said Smith. He was stunned. Smith lived with the secret for months before telling his wife and that did not go well.
"She accused me of having an affair," said Smith.
The stress ended his marriage and cost Smith his job. He figured the diagnosis came from a prior blood test, but that he was never notified. Confused and scared he believed it. But -- at his daughter's urging -- Smith had his doctor run an HIV test and it came back negative.
Smith traces the problem back to the last time he gave plasma in 1995. He thinks there must have been a false positive and his name went on a national database in place to ensure a safe blood supply.
But Smith said his new negative test is not enough to have his name removed.
"They will not take me off the list. Once you are on it you are on it for good," said Smith.
Brad Beasley,HIV Prevention Director with the Metro HealthDepartment is trying to help Smith clear his name. But that is proving difficult.
"Unless the policy changes at the federal level you are banging your head against the wall," said Beasley.
The database is not open to the general public. But health professionals and businesses or agencies that deal in plasma and blood supplies can gain access said Bealey. He said cases like Smith's are unfortunate, but such data bases are in place to ensure a safe blood supply.
Health officials said the FDA sets federal guidelines for how the blood safety data bases work. And the agency is now looking at ways to remove false positives from the data bases.