Gareth Johnson: Blood contamination victims deserve quick response before more die

Date: Mon 18th October 2010

On Thursday, 14th October, Gareth Johnson took part in the blood contamination debate in Parliament after being approached by a number of constituents whose lives had been ruined through contracting HIV or Hepatitis C following contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Gareth has called for the Government to make urgent considerations to those victims and can report that the health minister, Anne Milton, said the government would produce a report by Christmas.

Gareth commented:  “The contracting of HIV through blood transfusions is one of the most profound, disturbing and dreadful episodes in 20th century health treatment.

“It is now urgent to help these survivors quickly and fairly as 20 years is too long to wait and many may not be around for much longer and they and their families are suffering financially through no fault of their own.  Many have lost their childhoods, others have been unable to have children. Some have kept their condition a secret for a fear of being shunned by people who have a naïve attitude towards HIV.  Many of the children who were infected never made it to adulthood.

“I will be pushing the Government to treat these remaining survivors fairly and quickly”.

Editors’ notes:

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The debate pushed for an enquiry into contaminated blood to try and compensate haemophiliacs and others who were infected with Hepatitis C in the late 1970s and 1980s through their NHS treatment.

Over 4,800 people were affected. Upwards of 1,200 people were also infected with HIV. Of those 1,200, more than 800 people have already died and hundreds more have died from Hepatitis C.

In the 1970s and 1980s blood derivatives were sourced from within the UK and from the USA where donors were paid and in some cases, funded their drug habit through the payments. Blood was later found to be infected with Hepatitis C and HIV and thousands became infected.

This problem arose partly because the UK was not self-sufficient in blood products.Those people who were infected have suffered enormously.

Life insurance is impossible to obtain and almost every month one of their number dies in the UK. Only a daily cocktail of drugs keeps these people alive. A further tragedy is the fact that some sufferers were not told of their condition even when it was known by others, leading to the infection of partners. On other occasions, it was felt unnecessary to engage with sufferers as they were not expected to live very long anyway.

The treatment that is available today for HIV sufferers was not envisaged in the 1980s, so it was believed that victims had a life expectancy of about five years.

The Macfarlane Trust was established in 1987 to provide emergency funding for haemophilia patients infected with HIV.

Victims, many of whom had a good standard of living beforehand, were required to go cap in hand for discretionary relief. Monthly payments are now dispensed.

The Skipton Fund was founded in 2003 following the publication of the Ross report. Those infected with hepatitis C can claim a lump sum of £20,000, and a further £25,000 is paid to those who can establish that their hepatitis C led to severe liver disease.

They claim that successive governments have failed to acknowledge any fault. Compensation has so far been limited to ‘ex gratia payments’. In 2009 an independent inquiry, chaired by former solicitor general Lord Archer of Sandwell, recommended that compensation be paid for victims but to date that level has not yet been determined.