HIV sufferer fights for compensation

ABUSE, alienation, loss of livelihood - this is the price one Ipswich man has paid for a government mistake.

ABUSE, alienation, loss of livelihood - this is the price one Ipswich man has paid for a government mistake.

Colin - not his real name - has haemophilia and contracted both HIV and hepatitis C from 'bad blood' distributed by the National Health Service.

After 20 years of suffering, his long-battle for compensation looks finally to be over after an inquiry recommended those still alive should receive pay-outs from the government.

The 50-year-old, the only patient with both conditions still alive in Suffolk, said the ruling was as much for his wife and three children as himself.


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“I know they have gone through it and suffered just as much as me because we've had to try and keep it under an umbrella of lies,” he told The Evening Star.

“One or two people do know about my conditions but you can't tell everybody. There's still a certain stigma attached.

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“I do feel lucky I'm still alive. I just want to regain some independence and have my life back.”

Colin said the personal trauma caused by the scandal has been massive - his wife threatened to leave him, his car and home were vandalised and his children were targeted.

Colin was one of more than 4,000 haemophilia patients infected with hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s by commercially manufactured blood products from the USA. Of those, 1,243 contracted HIV in a similar way.

Almost 2,000 people have since died in what the Archer report, published recently, called a “horrific human tragedy.”

The inquiry made their findings after hearing evidence for two years into the contaminated blood scandal.

Both Colin and his daughter were among the 64 who presented evidence personally.

“It was quite a harrowing experience going through it all again - I was reliving the past 20 years,” he said.

“We wanted the government to do a public inquiry but they seemed unwilling.

“Without the support of private sponsors the inquiry wouldn't have gone ahead and we would have continued to be ignored.”

Should the government pay compensation? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

COLIN first discovered he had haemophilia when he had his tonsils removed, aged six.

With regular blood replacement to prevent bleeding, he admits the condition would have been manageable.

But in 1985 doctors told him he had contracted HIV. Seven years later he was diagnosed with hepatitis.

Colin suspects both were from the same batch of blood.

“I know the batch numbers through a prosecution in the early 90s,” he recalls.

“At the time we had legal aid for the HIV litigation and the solicitor in Norwich found them out.

“Unfortunately we never got to court. Margaret Thatcher had wanted our case to be looked at but she was ousted before it was heard.”

In 1991 the prolonged legal battle against the UK government ended with an out of court settlement in one of the first acts by the new Prime Minister, John Major.

Colin received about three years pay in compensation and still receives a basic monthly allowance from the McFarlane Trust, the support group set up for haemophiliacs living with HIV infection.

A year later, 1992, Colin was told he had hepatitis C.

“Haemophiliacs were dying at an alarming rate,” he said.

“I tried to carry on with my business but the doctor said I may not have enough energy to keep living, never mind running a business.

“She gave me about two or three years to live. We wanted to make the most of it so we took the children on a holiday of a lifetime.

“Luckily around that time combination therapy came about.”

Colin began combination therapy, commonly a cocktail of two or more drugs, for both conditions in 1996.

While his immune system began to recover, the damage to the former decorator's personal life was irretrievable.

“At one point my wife threatened to leave me,” he said.

“We had to move, I've had my car bricked and had other stuff chucked at the window.

“When the kids went to school people shouted 'Your dad's a drug runner'.

“People ask why I'm not at work but they don't see the days I struggle.”

Despite the problems, Colin has tried to give something back to the community by volunteering with the Salvation Army.

And following the conclusion of the Archer Inquiry, Colin hopes to hear from the government in the next week.

“We need some sort of compensation.

“Even now we still have a mortgage. My wife has given up work when I've been ill and the money that I would have earned through my business is no longer coming in.

“Twenty years is a long time to wait for an apology.”

Haemophilia is a blood condition in which an essential clotting factor is either partly or completely missing. This causes a person with haemophilia to bleed for longer than normal.

About 6,000 people are affected with haemophilia in the UK.

Haemophilia is a lifelong inherited genetic condition, which affects females as carriers and males who inherit the condition.

For further details call 0207 8311020 or visit www.haemophilia.org.uk

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