and LOUISE JURY
The priest who sparked a major Aids alert in the Irish Republic by claiming a woman had infected up to 80 men with the HIV virus last night defended his decision to go public.
Father Michael Kennedy said the woman had told him she had done everything she could to spread the infection "in a terrible anger" at society. And he feared some of her victims would not come forward unless he acted.
After a meeting with health officials who had demanded evidence for his dramatic claims, the priest spoke out at his presbytery in the seaside town of Dungarvan in Co Waterford. But Aids experts were already casting doubts on them.
Derek Freedman, a genito-urinary specialist in Dublin, said: "The circumstances reported from Dungarvan are extremely unusual. If true [the infection figures] would make the medical literature because such a high rate of infection from a woman to a man has not been reported before in the Western world."
Fr Kennedy stunned parishioners in the small Irish town on Sunday when he warned that dozens of young men could have been infected by the 25- year-old woman between November last year and March.
He had tracked her down after one man spoke to him in January about health fears, and she was now close to death in Britain after her infection developed into full-blown Aids.
"When I was able to find out who it was [the source of the infection] I decided to go to her and ask her and after 10 attempts I asked her for the sake of everyone involved that she herself should go and receive psychological and medical help. She then decided to go back to London."
The priest said there were now five confirmed men HIV positive. A further nine had been recalled for further tests after initially testing HIV positive. Twenty others will shortly be seeking tests, he said.
"The girl herself said something in the region of 60-80 that she was involved with. She wasn't quite sure herself but said it was in that range, Fr Kennedy said.
The girl was now in hospital in London," he said, adding: "She is very close to dying with probably just weeks to live." She is understood to have Irish parents and to have visited dozens of pubs and clubs while visiting the Dungarvan area.
Asked if he realised the alleged infection rate was highly unlikely, he said he had heard what medical experts had said.
"All I'm saying to you is we have five known cases of HIV and the girl herself says that she went out of her way to do the best she could to spread the disease and she refused to let any of them wear condoms."
The motive was to try to spread the virus.
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