DENVER – Federal prosecutors in Colorado announced Wednesday that a hospital surgery technician accused of stealing painkiller syringes is HIV positive and urged patients who may have possibly infected by him to be tested.
Authorities haven't previously described the health status of Rocky Allen, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he took a syringe of painkillers and replaced it with one containing another substance at Swedish Medical Center in suburban Denver. Prosecutors previously only referred to him as having an undisclosed "blood-borne pathogen" during a court hearing in February.
The statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office also said Allen had tested negative for Hepatitis B and C.
The fear is that Allen may have replaced the needles intended for patients with syringes he previously used, making it possible for patients to be infected. However, Allen's public defender, Timothy O'Hara, has said that while evidence showed Allen may have switched syringes there was no reason to believe he was re-using them.
Public health officials have said the risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens is low, and there have been no reported cases of patients becoming infected because of Allen.
The case has also led to warnings to patients at other hospitals where Allen worked in Arizona, California and Washington to be tested. Prosecutors have said he has a history of moving from hospital to hospital and lying about his past to steal drugs.
In Colorado, about 2,500 of the 3,000 patients Swedish tried to notify were tested for HIV as well as Hepatitis B and C as of Wednesday, according the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver. However, about 500 of those people initially tested did not get recommended follow-up testing.
Allen is a Navy veteran, and his lawyer says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as a medical worker in Afghanistan, where he started using drugs.