Individuals in N.Y., Va. Receive Hoax Letters Claiming To Inform Them of Partners’ Positive HIV Test Results
Since early February, at least 10 people in New York have received letters printed on counterfeit Mount Sinai Hospital letterhead claiming to inform them that one of their sexual partners has tested positive for HIV and that they also may be infected with HIV, the New York Times reports. In addition, Virginia officials a few weeks ago said that they had identified a batch of nearly identical letters claiming to be from Virginia Hospital Center, the Times reports. The New York letters claim to be from Mount Sinai's "HIV/AIDS Notification Service," although no such department exists, and patients' sexual partners or individuals with whom an HIV-positive person shared a needle always are informed in person of HIV-positive test results, according to the Times. A Mount Sinai spokesperson said that while there did not seem to be any links between the individuals who received the letters claiming to be from Mount Sinai, one line in each of the letters indicated that the person who sent the letters knew information about each of the recipients, the Times reports. For example, a letter to one man stated, "We want to make all relevant parties informed, including your wife," while a letter to a woman said, "including your past husband." Mount Sinai spokesperson Mel Granick said that the similarities between the New York and Virginia letters "are strong enough ... to raise suspicions that the same person is responsible in both cases," the Times reports. The Manhattan District Attorney's Offic has begun an investigation into the case, the Times reports. District Attorney's Office spokesperson Barbara Thompson said that creating and sending the fake letters might constitute a crime, such as possession of a false instrument -- a charge similar to forgery -- or aggravated harassment (Perez-Pena, New York Times, 3/20).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.