HIV victim in 25-year struggle for justice

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A HAEMOPHILIAC man from Northamptonshire, who was accidentally infected with the HIV virus by the NHS, will come a step closer to £800,000 compensation when the issue is debated in the House of Commons for the first time.

The 41-year-old was diagnosed with the virus – which can lead to AIDS, as well as hepatitis C – in 1985 after being treated with a clotting agent which had come from an infected batch of blood.

He was among 1,200 British people who were infected with both viruses and among only 400 who now survive.

The victims all had haemophilia – a condition which prevents blood clotting – and were regularly being injected with a batch of Factor VIII, which, unknown to them, was being harvested from prostitutes, drug addicts and convicts in America who were often paid for giving blood.

Despite several groups campaigning on behalf of the victims, the Government has yet to admit any responsibility and the issue has never been discussed in the House of Commons before, because ministers feared a massive compensation payout.

However, the new Backbench Business Committee has chosen the subject for a debate tomorrow.

The man, who lives near Northampton and asked to remain anonymous because of the stigma he said is still attached to the HIV virus, said: “This really does mark the end of an era because every time a bill for compensation has been proposed, the Government has deliberately run it out of time and blocked it.

“In 25 years this is the first time MPs will debate the matter openly.

“This is very, very significant for all of those who are left.”

If the British Government was to offer a settlement based on that offered by the Irish government, as recommended by an independent inquiry, he believes he would be due £800,000.

So far, he has accepted a total of £43,000, after being encouraged to do so by lawyers, based on his life expectancy in the 1980s.

The Government has since offered a further arrangement of £400 a week but victims have rejected it.

The victim, who has been unable to work because of his illnesses, said: “It’s not about living a life of luxury.

“I want to be able to go out and get a job with flexible hours so I can fit in my treatment and be able to go on holidays and pay the bills like anyone else.

“We’re looking for either a lump sum or a better offer for a weekly payment. What we’ve been offered at the moment is what we call a pension but it does not compensate us for how our lives have been changed.”

Northamptonshire South MP Andrea Leadsom, who will be speaking tomorrow, said she believed the motion would advance the cause of the haemophiliac victims.

She said: “When I heard what had happened to this man I was horrified. This was not a deliberate act but a tragedy just the same in which people were effectively given a life sentence.

“Where the Government can do something about it then they should. I don’t wish to second guess the Department of Health but I know they are looking carefully at it, I know they are concerned.

“There’s no doubt that when things are raised and discussed in the Chamber, ministers get to hear heartbreaking stories and it can have an effect.”