Socialist Worker

Scandal continues of NHS patients who contracted HIV through contaminated blood

The legacy of the scandal of thousands of NHS patients being contaminated with HIV in the 1980s lives on, writes Gary Kelly

Issue No. 2054

'The worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.” Those are the words of Robert Winston, one of the world’s most respected medical academics, on the scandal of thousands of people receiving HIV contaminated blood in the 1980s.

After 20 years of campaigning for a public inquiry into contaminated blood, countless refusals by the British government and the Scottish Executive, an independent inquiry has opened under Lord Archer of Sandwell, the former lord advocate of the Labour government.

This has been one of the biggest cover-ups in the history of the British government.

The official reason for the government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry is that nothing new would be learned and it would not be in the public interest.

Yet it has been considered in the public interest to prosecute people who have infected their partners over the last few years. And as a member of the public, it would be in my interest for a public inquiry to take place.

The British government was warned by the World Health Organisation not to import blood products from the US and yet it carried on doing so.

The US paid prisoners to give blood. Studies had shown that prisoners were one of the highest risk groups of people living with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Papers released through the Freedom of Information Act – copies were recovered from solicitors, as the originals had been shredded – have proved that haemophiliacs were being used as lab rats.

Studies were done to see how HIV was passed onto others. Patients had been tested without consent and not informed. Haemophiliacs were infected through Factor VIII, an essential clotting agent, and not informed for many years. Other people were infected through other blood products. Many have infected their partners.

A test for HIV had been developed in the early 1980s by French scientists. But rather than pay £5 per diagnostic kit, the Department of Health preferred to invent its own test. This did not work, so the introduction of testing was delayed.

The government was aware that this was happening and condoned it – all in the name of research.

Our health was put in jeopardy because of costs. David Owen, who was the health secretary in 1974, had authorised funding for Britain to be self-sufficient in blood supplies. But this was held up for years.

Reports by the Medical Inspectorate show that the blood transfusions labs were more like abattoirs, condemned under heath and safety laws.

Many people who were infected were not traced by the NHS. Seven people have only been diagnosed in the last few years. Many of them have died. It is completely possible that they infected others unknowingly.

The government is guilty of murder by not taking the precautions that it was warned it needed to take. Public inquiries have taken place in New Zealand and Ireland, leading to criminal proceedings.

Their governments paid £1 million to each person who had received contaminated blood.

Our government and medical professionals have been protecting themselves. They have failed to apologise or even recognise us.

Our lives have been destroyed and that of our families, by a government who put commercial interests before our health.

We have set up a campaign called Taintedblood and have handed in our accusation document, which is 70 pages long.

The next date for the independent inquiry will be on 14 June. It will be the MPs turn to give evidence. The inquiry is open to the public.

People with HIV have been convicted for giving HIV to their partners, yet no one in Britain has been convicted for infecting thousands of haemophiliacs or others who received contaminated blood.

Hopefully, after a public inquiry, the lord advocate will bring charges against those guilty people. They have condemned us to life without parole.

We are dying to tell the truth. As a non-haemophiliac who received HIV-contaminated blood in the 1980s, I welcome the new Scottish National Party executive’s decision to hold a public inquiry. Unlike Lord Archer’s independent inquiry, it will have legal status.

As Gareth Lewis, the chair of Taintedblood, said, “We want an end to 20 years of hell.”

You can find more information about the Taintedblood campaign at » www.taintedblood.info and the inquiry at » www.archercbbp.com


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Tue 5 Jun 2007, 19:11 BST
Issue No. 2054
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