Husband’s tainted NHS blood gave me HIV, says widow

Daily Mail - - News - By In­derdeep Bains

A WOMAN told yes­ter­day how she was given HIV by her husband af­ter doc­tors told them it was fine to try for a baby.

And Clair Wal­ton, 57, who was in­fected by the con­tam­i­nated blood given to her haemophil­iac husband by the NHS, said the cou­ple had been viewed as ‘test sub­jects’ by medics.

She told the in­quiry into the blood scan­dal – de­scribed as the ‘worst treat­ment disas­ter in NHS his­tory’ – that the cou­ple were used for ‘re­search pur­poses’ un­der ‘sin­is­ter’ con­di­tions. Mrs Wal­ton said they had not been fully warned of the risks when they went to doc­tors want­ing to start a fam­ily de­spite her late husband Bryan hav­ing AIDS.

More than 7,500 peo­ple were in­fected with HIV and hepati­tis C by NHS blood in the 1970s and 1980s. Des­per­ate for a fam­ily, the cou­ple, who met in 1978 and mar­ried five years later, saw a doc­tor in 1986 to ask about their op­tions.

Mrs Wal­ton said knowl­edge of HIV was scarce in the 1980s and they were ‘in­no­cent and naive’ about the dan­gers. As a re­sult, Mrs Wal­ton, an ar­chiv­ist from War­wick­shire, tested pos­i­tive for HIV in 1987.

She said: ‘In­stead of say­ing that in our case try­ing for a baby is re­ally dan­ger­ous and we should not even at­tempt it, [the doc­tor] just told us,“Well, that’s not a very good idea but if you want to go ahead we’ll mon­i­tor you”, and so we did.’

She told the in­quiry: ‘They were watch­ing whether I would turn from HIV neg­a­tive to HIV pos­i­tive. That was it. I am ab­so­lutely con­vinced that I was tested for re­search pur­poses from then on.

‘To­day it is clear to me that I was just a study to them and that is why the Hae­mophilia Unit failed to proan vide us with real ad­vice or sup­port.’ She said: ‘Bryan was a haemophil­iac, they knew he had been given HIV and I was a healthy young woman who was neg­a­tive.

‘I thought it was in­com­pe­tence at the time but ac­tu­ally prob­a­bly much more se­ri­ous than that. The cir­cum­stances un­der which I be­came in­fected with HIV should be looked at again – I think it is far more sin­is­ter.’

Le­gal sources say doc­u­ments ex­ist that ‘sug­gest they [doc­tors] were ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing HIV pos­i­tive haemophil­i­acs to have sex to see if it would be passed on’ at the time.

Mrs Wal­ton de­scribed the ‘ter­ror’ when her husband was called in for ap­point­ment in 1985 to be told he had HIV and AIDS which would kill him within three years.

Med­i­cal records showed doc­tors were aware of his con­di­tion as early as June 1984 but failed to tell him, the in­quiry heard.

Mrs Wal­ton said: ‘ We saw the me­dia cov­er­age about AIDS. It was in­cred­i­bly fright­en­ing. We were ter­ri­fied and trau­ma­tised by it all. He just wanted to live. But he knew he was go­ing to die.’

Af­ter his di­ag­no­sis, doc­tors con­tin­ued to give Mr Wal­ton con­tam­i­nated blood af­ter telling him there was a short­age of prod­ucts for haemophil­i­acs, the in­quiry heard.

Mrs Wal­ton ex­plained: ‘They said they were sav­ing the good stuff for the lit­tle boys, the boys that hadn’t been given HIV and Bryan ac­cepted.’ She said he was ‘ put un­der emo­tional black­mail’ to take ‘old stock, in­fected blood prod­ucts’.

She added: ‘I was a young woman and I was watch­ing my husband be­come more and more ema­ci­ated. I saw his brav­ery as well.’

She also de­scribed a mo­ment where she felt he ‘asked her per­mis­sion to die’.

Mr Wal­ton, a petrol sta­tion man­ager, died in 1993 at the age of 34. A se­vere haemophil­iac, he had been in­fected with HIV in his teens dur­ing an NHS blood trans­fu­sion us­ing the con­tam­i­nated blood prod­uct Fac­tor VIII, im­ported from the US.

Mr Wal­ton had al­ready de­vel­oped AIDS by the time he learned of his in­fec­tion aged 26 – al­most a year af­ter doc­tors had se­cretly di­ag­nosed him, the in­quiry was told.

Mrs Wal­ton said she found out years af­ter his death that he had also con­tracted hepati­tis C.

The in­quiry, led by for­mer High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff, will hear ev­i­dence ses­sions over the com­ing months in Belfast, Leeds, Ed­in­burgh and Cardiff.

‘I was tested for re­search pur­poses’

Tragedy: Mr and Mrs Wal­ton on their wed­ding day

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