Contaminated blood scandal: How UK’s treatment disaster cost over 3000 infected with HIV and hepatitis

In the United Kingdom, the NHS, which treats the vast majority of people, started using the new treatment in the early 1970s. It was called Factor VIII.

Reports have revealed that the United Kingdom’s National Health Service infected tens of thousands of people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or hepatitis through transfusions of tainted blood in the 1970s and 1980s.

The final report which was published on Monday took almost six years to investigate the scandal seen as the deadliest to afflict the government-managed NHS since its inception in 1948, with around 3,000 people believed to have died as a result of being infected with HIV and hepatitis

The report indicted medical practitioners, civil servants and politicians, as many have already died given the passage of time.

The report also showed that there would be a huge compensation bill that the British government will be under pressure to rapidly pay, adding that the scandal would have been swept under the carpet if not for relentless campaigners.

“This whole scandal has blanketed my entire life,” said Jason Evans, who was 4 when his father died at the age of 31 in 1993 after contracting HIV and hepatitis from an infected blood plasma product.

AP said Evans was instrumental in the decision by the then-Prime Minister Theresa May to inaugurate the inquiry in 2017, stating that he just “couldn’t let it go.” 

NHS was established by the National Health Service Act in 1946, followed by a 1948 legislation setting down the guidelines for the national health services provider. 

The UK populace is covered under NHS that provides health services to the public, free of cost, though there may be few minimum charges involved.

It is the world’s fifth largest employer and the largest non-military public organisation that consists of four services in England, Scotland, Wales and Health and social care in Northern Ireland.

NHS administers medical services in three separate groups — general practitioner and dental services, hospital and specialist services, and local health authority services.

Thousands of people in the UK who had haemophilia (blood clotting disorder) in 1970s and 1980s, were sold or donated blood by HIV positive and hepatitis-infected people. Contaminated blood was also given to people at the time of childbirth and surgery. 

In 1970, NHS used a new treatment called Factor VIII for haemophilia. In this treatment, plasma was pooled from multiple donors to create a pharmaceutical product and it was considered ‘wonder drug’ for the patients, IE report noted.

The product used was imported from US, where a majority of donors were prisoners or intravenous drug users, who were paid for the donation. 

More than 30,000 people were consequently infected with HIV, Hepatitis C, the report revealed. 1,250 haemophiliacs were infected with both. A Guardian report has revealed that about 380 children were infected with HIV.

Another report by The Independent revealed that 2,400-5,000 recipients developed hepatitis C and nearly two-thirds of HIV-infected patients died later due to AIDS-related illness.

BBC News accessed documents revealing that clinical trials of infected blood products was done on children as young as 2-years-old despite there families not consenting. 

BBC reported that majority of children who enrolled in the trial are dead. Survivors told the publication that they were treated like ‘guinea pigs’.

Documents also showed that despite being widely recognised as contaminated, these blood products were still used. 

Out of 122 students who attended Treloar College between 1974 and 1987, 75 have died of HIV and hepatitis C infections so far, BBC reported.

The BBC investigation revealed that the 1973 government knew about Treloar’s trials and covered some its costs too.

Culled from AP