Victims of UK tainted blood scandal to get government payout

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people in Britain who contracted HIV or hepatitis from transfusions of tainted blood in the 1970s and 1980s will receive 100,000 pounds ($120,000) in compensation, the U.K. government said Wednesday.

Survivors welcomed the payment, which came after years of campaigning, but said it should be expanded to include more people whose lives were blighted by the scandal.

The payment will be made by October to survivors and bereaved partners of the dead but not to other family members, such as parents or children. A decision on compensation for them is not expected until a public inquiry concludes next year.

“The parents feel so disheartened and despondent that they can’t get recognition,” said Rosemary Calder, whose 25-year-old son Nicky received an infected blood product and died in 1999 with HIV. Calder said the approved payments were “a step in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go.”

Thousands of hemophiliacs and other hospital patients in Britain were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C through tainted blood products, largely imported from the United States. Some 2,400 people have died as a result of the scandal, which has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of Britain’s health care system.

The contaminated blood was linked to supplies of a clotting agent called Factor VIII, which British health services bought from the U.S. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products was traced to high-risk donors, including prison inmates, who were paid to give blood samples.

After years of pushing from victims, an inquiry began in 2019. The inquiry’s chairman, retired judge Brian Langstaff, said earlier this month that survivors should not have to wait any longer for compensation because of the “profound physical and mental suffering” caused by the tragedy.

Mark Fox, who contracted Hepatitis C after being treated with a contaminated blood product for hemophilia as a child, said he welcomed the announcement as an acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the authorities.

“It’s not about compensation, it’s about someone saying sorry,” he said. “It’s that they tried to hide it, and so many people tried to brush it under the carpet.

“Fortunately I’m not dead yet — I don’t know how long I’ve got, but some kids have lost their mams and dads, so I am pleased there is this recognition,” Fox said.

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