Socialist Worker

Contaminated blood inquiry hears victims’ horror stories as campaigners fear cover-up

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2653

Thousands of people were given contaminated blood or blood products in the late 1970s and 1980s

Thousands of people were given contaminated blood or blood products in the late 1970s and 1980s (Pic: Factor 8 Campaign UK)


Victims of the contaminated blood scandal were treated like “dirt”, an inquiry has heard. The Infected Blood Inquiry began hearing oral evidence last week.

Clair Walton contracted HIV from her husband, Bryan, a haemophiliac who had received contaminated blood.

“In early 1985 he was told he was positive with HIV and would die in a few years,” she said. His medical records confirmed that he had first proved positive in June 1984—but he wasn’t told.

When Clair contracted HIV the doctors told her husband, not her.

She described ­looking after Bryan as his health deteriorated. “I was a young woman and I was watching my husband become more and more emaciated,” she told the inquiry.

She told most of her friends that he had died of cancer because of the “stigma” attached to HIV and Aids at the time.

When she was later treated with drugs to combat HIV infection she said “it was assumed that I was a drug user or a prostitute”.

And she said a ­government-backed charity that was supposed to help victims “seemed to forget that they were dealing with desperate and dying people”.

“It was as if we were dirt,” she said.

Thousands of people were given blood or blood products contaminated with HIV or Hepatitis C in the late 1970s and 1980s.

British governments bought the blood and blood products from the US. They were warned repeatedly that they were unsafe—but continued to buy them because they were cheap.

The inquiry previously heard that 25,000 people may have been affected and many still know nothing about it.

Infected

Derek Martindale was infected with HIV and Hepatitis C after receiving blood products to treat his haemophilia. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 when he was just 23 years old and given a year to live.

He was told not to tell anyone—even his family.

Derek told the inquiry, “When you’re young you’re invincible. But then you’re told you have 12 months to live—it’s very hard to comprehend.

“There was no future, the likelihood of ­getting married and having children was very unlikely.”

The diagnosis affected Derek’s whole life. He avoided relationships because sex was the main way his disease would spread, and in any case he expected to die.

He was only made aware that he had also been infected with Hepatitis C in 1997.

A Freedom of Information request this week showed that the Department of Health had failed to hand over 139 relevant files to the inquiry.

An audit said that the omissions could be due to “inconsistencies in the filing system”. Campaigners fear it shows a cover-up.

Inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff said the inquiry would be “frightened of no one in the conclusions it draws”.


How victims were blamed for scandal

Victims of the scandal were deliberately portrayed as addicts so that they could be blamed for their diseases.

The Infected Blood Inquiry has heard that records were destroyed and doctored. Aidan O’Neill QC said many victims said “false information” had been added to their records.

Lloyd Williams QC said one woman was accused of having multiple sexual partners or using illegal drugs when diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

She had contracted it from contaminated blood.

Williams said the authorities had kept their “mouths shut, files closed and shredders busy” for the last three decades.

The Tories have fought to withhold information from the inquiry.


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