Today is World AIDS Day. Since the Penrose Report was published we know that at least 59 people were infected with HIV in Scotland by being treated with contaminated plasma derived clotting products for their bleeding disorder.
They were some of the first people in Scotland to be infected and endured the early experimental treatments and suffered the extreme levels of stigma that came with the public panic about the virus. Everyone who lived through that period remembers the media stories and the impact it had on the way everyone with a bleeding disorder was treated. Tackling the stigma associated to HIV is a central plank of this year’s World AIDS Day campaign under the slogan “It’s not just retro it’s wrong.”
Of the 59 people infected there are just 20 long term survivors left. The pain of those families who lost a loved one hasn’t gone away. The long running campaign for answers about how this could be allowed to happen, to make sure all relevant lessons are learnt, and for their to be proper financial support, has taken its toll on many affected families. Everyone who was treated for a bleeding disorder in the 1970s and early 1980s was exposed to Hepatitis C, including everyone who was infected with HIV. That meant the disaster caused 478 Hepatitis C infections in people with bleeding disorders.
We also remember that it wasn’t just people with bleeding disorders who were infected. There were an unknown number of people who were infected with HIV through a blood transfusion and up to 2,500 may have been exposed to Hepatitis C as a result of the contaminated blood disaster in Scotland.
How you can help
You can help by increasing your own knowledge about the contaminated blood disaster and making sure other people hear about it too. There are summaries on the Haemophilia Scotland website and the Penrose Report can be downloaded online. However, a great way of understanding the impact of the disaster is to watch the powerful Dogstar play, Factor 9. You’ll need the password “Inverness” to view it.
Secondly, some of the bereaved families are working together to construct a lasting memorial to the victims of the contaminated blood disaster in Scotland. Their fundraising is going extremely well but continued efforts are needed if their loved ones are to get the fitting memorial they deserve. Donations can be made online or by texting CBME23 and the amount to 70070. So, to donate a tenner your text should read “CBME23 £10”.