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Cops probe HIV taxi needle claims

By Yin Yeping (Global Times)

13:16, August 27, 2012

Beijing police said Sunday they are investigating whether a Beijing man was maliciously infected with HIV; however experts have said it is unlikely the man would have the virus.

A man, surnamed Xu, told the Global Times that he was pricked on his leg by the needle of a syringe while he was in a taxi on Tuesday at around 10 pm.

Xu was on his way to visit his then girlfriend in Qinghe, Haidian District.

"I lifted my leg as I was sitting in the cab's backseat. I suddenly felt my leg was stabbed and it was bleeding," said Xu.

"Then I noticed that there was a syringe in the magazine box which was hung on the back of the front passenger seat. A needle was sticking out," he said.

The syringe contained a "yellow liquid," said Xu. Worried the liquid harbored something infectious, such as HIV, he asked the taxi driver, surnamed Gong, to take him to a hospital.

"The driver took me to several nearby hospitals but they either were not able to diagnose HIV or could only do it during the daytime," said Xu.

The next day he went to Ditan Hospital, Shunyi district, which specializes in infectious diseases, and paid 2,700 yuan ($425) for anti-HIV treatment.

His girlfriend has split up with him since the incident, Xu said.

The driver told the Beijing News Friday that he has no idea where the syringe in his cab came from.

And officer from Haidian criminal police squad, who would not give her name, said Xu had reported the incident, and said it is under investigation.

"We've established a special detective team to work on it," she said, "we will release the results as soon as we can."

Wang Ning, deputy director of the National Center for Aids and STD Control and Prevention Center of the Chinese Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the chance of Xu being infected by HIV is very low.

"And the syringe needs to be pressed for any matter to be injected into the body," said Wang.

Chaoyang district CDC is testing the liquid in the syringe, and initially said that it might contain HIV antibodies, reported the Beijing News Friday.

It is being sent for further tests, but Lun Wenhui, deputy director of the venereal disease department at Ditan Hospital, said that the HIV virus dies quickly outside the body, the report said.

An HIV test can be done quickly, but you need to wait for around three months for proof of infection to be present in the body, Wang noted.

The Beijing News reported that Xu was prescribed Zidovudine and Lamivudine as preventative medicine. These are effective at preventing infection if taken within 24 hours, said Wang.

The taxi company, Beijing Huatai Taxi Company, told Xu it will not accept responsibility for his injury.

"We won't take any responsibility for it until the police have finished their investigation," an anonymous Huatai employee confirmed Sunday.

"We planned to equip each taxi with a camera but passengers thought it may intrude their rights," he said.

Yang Chunxiang, from Beijing Longan Law Office, told the Global Times that the taxi company will bear full responsibility if the person who put the syringe in the taxi could not be found, according to Chinese contract law.

"The company may need to pay up to 8,000 yuan to Xu for mental distress, as well as for his treatment" he said.

"And if HIV infection shows up months later, the compensation will be much higher," Yang noted.

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