A COUNTY campaigner who has tirelessly highlighted a scandal which saw thousands of people infected with HIV has criticised the Government for attempting to overshadow the ongoing public inquiry.
Andy Evans, chairman of the TaintedBlood campaign group, spoke out after the Government revealed increased funding for those affected by the scandal by just over a third, but did not specify to whom or how the cash would be paid.
The move came after inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff asked that support for victims was reviewed and significantly uplifted for the duration of the inquiry.
And while a working party consisting of a group of those affected was set up to provide a proposal for the Government to work from, Mr Evans said the timing of the announcement did not fill him with confidence it had listened to the proposals made.
“We are concerned the Government has not yet been able to confer with the devolved administrations to apply fairness in payments across the whole of the UK,” he said.
“Whilst we welcome some move towards uplift of payments, this strikes me as a last minute attempt to put something together to overshadow the work of the inquiry.
A public inquiry into the scandal which saw some 5,000 British haemophiliac patients – whose blood cannot clot – infected with HIV, Hepatitis C, or both, began earlier this month.
Blood was sourced from prisons in America and not screened correctly.
Victims were given contaminated blood products by the NHS between 1972 and 1985 and around 4,800 people originally infected with Hepatitis C while 1,243 of those were also infected with HIV, the virus which leads to AIDS.
More than 2,000 people have since died. Of the HIV group, only around 250 are still alive, representing an 80 per cent death rate for that group.
Evesham-based Mr Evans established TaintedBlood in 2006 with Gareth Lewis, who passed away as a result of his infections in 2010.
“I’ve been working as a campaigner within contaminated blood for too many years now. Progress has been painfully slow, and often seems to be actively blocked by those in power,” he said.
“I’ve seen a huge number of people, many of them my friends, die since the original infections in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lots were still children.”
The campaigner was just five-years-old when he was infected with HIV and hepatitis C and said campaigners were tired of not having their voices heard.
“It’s truly hard to feel such injustice and hardship for so long. But we will never go away. If we die, our families will be there to continue the fight,” he added.
“The contaminated blood disaster has seen the equivalent number of deaths as 23 Hillsboroughs or four jumbo jet crashes and that cannot be forgotten nor swept under the carpet.”
“In other countries such as France, people have been jailed for their role in this scandal. Victims have been paid full and proper compensation, and answers have been delivered.
“They have been vindicated in their fight, while ours continues on, decades later. Meanwhile, people are still dying,” he added.
Visit www.taintedblood.info for more on the campaign.