Man with AIDS Wins $18M in Damages after Doctors Cancel HIV Test

A court has awarded a man $18.4 million in damages after two of his former physicians did not test him for HIV even though he was at high risk of contracting the virus.

Sean Stentiford consented to an HIV test in 2007, but his former physicians failed to carry one out, The Boston Globe reported. Around three years later, a different doctor suggested he have a test and the results came back positive.

As he had not received treatment, the disease developed into AIDS. Stentiford subsequently experienced brain damage, and was unable to continue his career as a lawyer, according to NBC.

The 48-year-old had a higher than average risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because he had previously worked as a paramedic and come into contact with bodily fluids, and is a gay may, his lawyer argued. His risk factors were noted in his patient documents in 2006.

"He lost his job. He lost his career. He lost his life," his lawyer David P. Angueira said on Tuesday.

The U.S. District Court ruled neurologist Kinan K. Hreib and internist Stephen E. Southard were negligent and caused Stentiford injury, according to court documents seen by The Boston Globe. Infectious disease specialist Daniel P. McQuillen was also found to be negligent, but not found to have harmed the complainant.

Jurors were shown documents Stentiford signed in 2007 consenting to HIV testing, after he experienced facial paralysis, a condition not uncommon in those with the virus.

Hreib noted in his patient's medical record there was "no risk of HIV," and canceled the test without Stentiford's knowledge. Despite not having a test, Southard told Stentiford his tests "looked good," wrongly believing this included HIV because he had signed a consent form.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all patients aged between 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once, a policy it introduced in 2006. Those at higher risk, including men who have sex with men or those who have a sexual partner who is HIV positive, should be tested as often as once a year or more.

The agency estimates 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. That includes around 162,500 who are thought to be unaware they have the condition. Around 40 percent of new cases are caused by those who are undiagnosed.

Lahey Hospital and Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment.

"This will hopefully be a signal to the medical community that the CDC recommendations regarding the screening and testing for HIV is an imminent public health matter that must be attended to by medical professionals nationwide," the office of Angueira said in a statement.

It continued: "Also, hopefully this judgment will send a message to this nation's medical community that the gay community can no longer be ignored and that HIV infection is a pandemic that affects everyone."