Doubt on priest's Aids claim

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The Independent Online
ALAN MURDOCH

Dublin

The local health authority in Dungarvan in Ireland last night cast serious doubts on a claimby the local curate, Father Michael Kennedy, that a 25-year-old London-Irish woman had deliberately infected up to 80 men with the Aids virus.

Before its monthly meetingin Kilkenny, the South Eastern Health Board said in a statement that it had still not seen any evidence that there had been a significant rise in the level of HIV in the region.

The board said Fr Kennedy had failed to provide definite information, despite repeated requests for him to do so.

"We have no evidence to date to verify any of the allegations concerning HIV or Aids cases in Dungarvan," the statement said. "Having checked with Irish and UK laboratories we can confirm there is no documented increase in HIV infection or Aids cases in the south east in the last year."

There had been no increase in attendances at the sexually transmitted disease clinics in Waterford, Cork or Dublin, it added.

However, the board appealed to anyone afraid they might be infected to contact the board using a special confidential helpline (1800-283700) it is providing. It urged people not to be deterred by dramatic media accounts.

Irish and British tabloids have given the affair extensive coverage with lurid headlines referring to the alleged woman source of the infection as an "Angel of Death".

The board chairman, Billy Kyne, a Dungarvan-based county councillor, earlier this week urged Fr Kennedy to give allinformation on the alleged HIV cases to the board. "I also feel that he must indicate to the board,even in confidentiality, where they have gone for testing if it has not been to the South Eastern Health Board."

Mr Kyne has been critical of the curate's failure to alert health authorities immediately he became aware of the problem last January. "Even though we are now told that she [the alleged source of infection] has left Dungarvan and gone to England, there is still a duty to minimise the risk of HIV being spread," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health in Dublin said last night it had not yet received any information to show a higher than normal level of HIV being reported from the south east.

Fr Kennedy and other local people have suggested tests were sought well away from the area to avoid recognition at local sexually transmitted disease clinics. If the claims are accurate, local health board statistics might not reflect the extent of the disease in the area.

Fr Kennedy said this week he had been told that most of the initial male cases reported to him had had tests in London.

A local woman who claimed she had become HIV positive after her boyfriend had sex with the London-Irish womansaid both she and her boyfriend had tests at St James Hospital in Dublin, giving false names and addresses. The unnamed woman, aged 28, told the Cork Examiner she knew of 17 people with HIV in Dungarvan.

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