CONCORD, N.H. - A traveling medical technician who stole painkillers and infected dozens of patients in multiple states with hepatitis C through tainted syringes was sentenced Monday to 39 years in prison.

"I don't blame the families for hating me," David Kwiatkowski said after hearing about 20 statements from people he infected and their relatives. "I hate myself."

Kwiatkowski, 34, was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital in 2011. He had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft.

Since his arrest last year, 46 people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries.

U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said the sentence "ensures that this serial infector no longer is in a position to do harm to innocent and vulnerable people."

Kwiatkowski admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. He pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal drug charges.

Before he was sentenced, Kwiatkowski faced his victims, saying that he was very sorry and that his crimes were caused by an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

Prosecutors asked for a 40-year sentence. Judge Joseph Laplante said he cut the last year as a reminder that some people have the capacity for mercy.

In all, 32 patients were infected in New Hampshire, seven in Maryland, six in Kansas, and one in Pennsylvania. Though prosecutors have not included the Pennsylvania case in their count, a spokeswoman for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has repeatedly said the hospital had one confirmed case. Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona, and Georgia.