Tainted blood inquiry opens in the United Kingdom, victims seek answers

Desiree Burns
September 25, 2018

We talk to Andy Evans, a haemophiliac who was infected with HIV after being given contaminated blood when he was just five.

It all happened in the 1970s and 80s, when patients were given blood contaminated with HIV or Hepatitis C. Despite allegations of a cover-up, it's taken until now for a public inquiry to begin.

People from Northern Ireland are among those who will give evidence, including one man who became infected as a teenager when he underwent an eye operation in 1974 following a auto accident.

He developed HIV and hepatitis B and C and was also exposed to CJD, while his brother Stephen, who also had the condition which means the blood can not clot, died aged 20 in 1987 after developing HIV.

"In my 30s it became evident there was something wrong", Co Antrim man Nigel Hamilton told the BBC.

"Anyone who may be responsible. they need to be held accountable and prosecuted if needs be - I strongly believe that", the mother-of-four said.

She said: "It is the first time the Government has really taken this seriously and the first time I have really felt they are actually prepared to look at the deaths". More than 2,800 people are known to have died in what has been described as "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".

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She was finally given an explanation for the illness 11 years ago when she was told by the NHS that she had been given a transfusion infected with the virus.She has since been treated and cleared of hepatitis, which also left her in pain and exhausted, but its shadow has been cast long over her life as she has fought for action over the scandal.

Previous inquiries have lacked powers to force witnesses to testify, meaning questions about whether the scandal was covered up have never been answered.

According to the terms of reference, which were published in July, the inquiry will consider "whether there have been attempts to hide details of what happened" through the destruction of documents or withholding of information.

It will examine why men, women and children in the United Kingdom were given infected blood and/or infected blood products.

Much of the plasma used to make the product came from donors such as prison inmates, who sold blood which turned out to be infected.

The inquiry - ordered by the Prime Minister a year ago - will be the largest of its kind, with more than 1,270 infected victims and their family members taking part and more than 100,000 documents already submitted.

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