By SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) – A public inquiry into Britain’s tainted blood scandal, which led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people in the 1970s and 1980s, began hearing testimony from former students of a school for disabled children where dozens died after receiving blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis.
Former students and parents of Treloar’s College, an English boarding school, testified at the infected blood investigation because the school’s health center gave children infected blood products such as plasma to treat their hemophilia, a condition that impairs the body’s ability to clot blood.
Some 89 former students have been infected with HIV or hepatitis and less than a quarter of them are still alive.
Gary Webster, one of the many former students to testify this week, remembers the day the school informed him he was infected. He was told “the outlook is not good, we cannot guarantee that you will be alive in a few years,” he said. “That was it, really.”
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“I’m angry about what happened, because I think it was preventable. When they said to us afterwards, ‘Oh, it was just an accident’, I just think about what could have been, ”he added.
The investigation into what happened at school is part of a larger investigation into what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the revered British public healthcare system.
The contaminated blood was linked to supplies of a clotting agent called factor VIII, which British health services were importing from the United States. Some products have been found to be infected. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products was allocated to high-risk donors, including inmates in US prisons, who were paid to donate blood samples.
In total, at least 2,400 people have died as a result of the scandal.
The UK government ordered a new investigation in 2017 after previous inquiries were called whitewash by activists. A final report is expected to be released next year or in 2023.
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