What I Learned From A Year Reporting On The Blood Contamination Scandal

One of the most horrifying aspects of the entire scandal is that it has remained an almost hidden issue and the general public don’t realise the full scale of injustice

Over the 12 days of Christmas, HuffPost UK will host a series of blogs from individuals at the centre of some of 2018′s biggest news stories. Today, reporter Aasma Day writes on the underreported contaminated blood scandal, and the lives it continues to blight. To find out more, follow our hashtag #HuffPost12Days

Imagine having the utmost trust and faith in the health service - after all it’s there to save your life and care for you in the best possible way isn’t it?

But for many people, their belief in the system was shattered when their lives were changed forever by killer viruses hidden in tainted blood used by the NHS to treat patients in the 1970s and 1980s.

The first time I came across the contaminated blood scandal was when I interviewed a Lancashire man who was born with the bleeding disorder haemophilia and had hailed the arrival of a wonder treatment called Factor VIII which would “change his life forever.”

Hauntingly, these words proved to be a prophecy - but not in the way he hoped as he was infected with HIV and Hepatitis C by the very treatment meant to keep him alive.

After digging deeper, I was dumbfounded with disbelief and horror - this man’s story was not an isolated case and thousands had died leaving their families heartbroken while many others were battling against the life threatening diseases given to them through no fault of their own.

I met and spoke to many people affected along the way including Su Gorman from campaign group Tainted Blood whose husband Steve Dymond was infected by hepatitis C from haemophilia treatment. Heartbreakingly, Steve died just a couple of days before Christmas with Su by his side – another victim of the scandal which has claimed the lives of too many.

Haemophiliac Suresh Vaghela told me about his heartache of attending 70 funerals in just one year of friends who died as a result of contaminated blood products - including that of his own brother.

I soon realised haemophiliacs weren’t the only victims of the contaminated blood disaster. Women given blood transfusions in childbirth were infected with hepatitis C but many only discovered this years later.

Mum-of-four Michelle Tolley only found out decades after being given blood transfusions contaminated with the virus when a diabetes check-up revealed irregularities in her blood and feels she is living with a timebomb.

Then there are those who have lost people they love and are struggling emotionally and financially such as Liz Hooper who lost two husbands to the scandal and Louisa Paintin who had a mental breakdown after the death of her beloved dad.

The thing that has struck me deeply when interviewing all these victims living with the viruses and families who have lost loved ones is the dignified way they have conducted themselves as they have fought for years for an inquiry into how and why such a thing could have happened.

To exacerbate their suffering and grief, allegations have emerged over the years of cover-ups and infected blood being given to patients even after it was discovered it was tainted.

For me, one of the most horrifying aspects of the entire scandal is that it has remained an almost hidden issue and the general public don’t realise the full scale of injustice.

The breakthrough of the long-awaited public inquiry will hopefully finally give some answers but has come too late for the thousands who have already lost their lives.

As journalists, it is imperative we give those affected by this horrendous scandal a voice and allow them to uncover the truth and justice they deserve and have campaigned so hard for.