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Faulty AIDS Diagnosis Causes Panic, Confusion in West Germany

April 15, 1988

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ A faulty test for AIDS led dozens of West Germans to believe they had the fatal disease, including a woman who planned her funeral, a newspaper reported.

″This woman lived with the death sentence for 56 days,″ the Frankfurt Abendpost newspaper said Thursday. It said she wrote a final testament requesting a white casket with gold lettering for her burial.

Her doctor later determined the test was faulty and she didn’t have AIDS, the paper said.

Another woman was ready to poison herself because an AIDS test had indicated her husband carried the deadly virus, the newspaper said. Three days later the doctor said the diagnosis was wrong.

On Tuesday, the Bavaria state Parliament AIDS committee said up to 30 percent of AIDS test results in West Germany are incorrect.

″There are rheumatism-related illnesses that, at first glance, react the same as AIDS antibodies,″ committee member and state parliamentary deputy Karl Heinz Mueller told reporters.

The committee based its report on recent AIDS test results in a section of Bavaria state, where 528 of 11,824 patients tested as AIDS-positive.

In a second round of testing to confirm results, only 359 of the 528 again tested positive, Mueller said.

About 500 West Germans a day are tested for the AIDS virus, the Abendpost newspaper said.

The committee said it was shocked about the results and called for uniform procedures in testing and informing patients.

Social workers Wednesday supported the committee’s appeal. They also criticized doctors who prematurely or without psychological considerations inform patients they have the virus.

″It’s pure terror. One can only do that if one wants to encourage suicide,″ Eberhard Zastrau of the Deutsche Aids-Hilfe (German AIDS Help) self-help group told The Associated Press in Munich.

The committee also said Bavaria state should end its policy of testing civil service applicants, foreigners applying for asylum and young men in military service.

Bavaria state in 1987 introduced tough measures aimed at preventing the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, including mandatory testing of those groups.

AIDS is caused by a virus that damages the body’s immune system, leaving victims susceptible to infections and cancer.

It is spread most often through sexual contact, needles or syringes shared by drug abusers, infected blood or blood products, and from pregnant women to their offspring.

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