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