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Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Further gross negligence is revealed at the public inquiry into Britain's haemophilia HIV transfusion scandal

HIV transfusion victims unaware of virus for decades, inquiry told - Guardian


"People infected with HIV after receiving contaminated blood transfusions are still unaware of their status and are at risk of infecting others with the disease, the public inquiry into Britain's haemophilia scandal was told yesterday.

The government has done little to follow up such victims - many of whom contracted the disease after just one blood transfusion in the mid-1980s and have lived with the condition for more than 20 years. In the cases which have come to light, patients have only been diagnosed following years of ill-health. It is feared they may have unwittingly infected others. Though the numbers affected may be small, it is a "serious problem", said Peter Stevens, who chairs the Eileen Trust support fund.

The revelation of a hidden group of people who contracted HIV through contaminated blood transfusions between 1983 and 1986 emerged as an independent public inquiry into how haemophiliacs were given contaminated blood sat for a third day of evidence yesterday.

A total of 4,670 people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C between the late 1970s and mid-1980s, of whom 1,200 were also infected with HIV. So far, 1,757 people with one or both of these viruses have died in a scandal the Labour peer Lord Winston has described as the "worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".

But people without bleeding disorders were also infected. It is not known how many have not yet been diagnosed - but seven people have come forward in the last five years, including an eight-year-old girl infected at birth by her mother, who had received a contaminated transfusion.

Mr Stevens told the inquiry: "We have people who have been HIV-positive for over 20 years and have received no medical attention for that condition until quite recently ... I cannot believe the latest registrant is the last. There are others out there who have HIV and are in the community, who may be married. They are a source of further infection. I think it's a very serious problem.""

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