As many as 1,000 people might have been exposed to the AIDS virus in blood-derived drugs dispensed by a cancer clinic in the Bahamas, according to preliminary, unconfirmed tests.
The discovery of the possible contamination from AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, led the Bahamas government on July 17 to order the closing of the clinic, called the Immunology Researching Center, Ltd.
Initial tests show evidence of the AIDS virus in many samples of the drugs, but the results are confusing and have been impossible so far to confirm, said Dr. Harold Jaffe of the national Centers for Disease Control.
Yesterday, Florida state health officials said they had found AIDS virus in samples of the drugs and issued a warning that patients who continue treatment with the drugs are at risk of developing AIDS.
The closed clinic is in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. Its director, Lawrence Burton, has administered a cancer treatment he calls immuno-augmentative therapy.
According to Dr. Gregory Curt, assistant director of the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer treatment, Burton has not produced any scientific evidence to demonstrate whether the treatment is effective.
Former Georgia governor Lester Maddox, who was diagnosed as having cancer in 1979, said he attended Burton's clinic beginning in May 1983. He said he has been taking three to 12 injections a day of "whole blood protein fractions." "I hope and pray to God" not to contract AIDS, Maddox said.