EMOTIONS ran high as thousands of people affected by a blood scandal which saw them contract HIV and hepatitis C attended the launch of an inquiry into the incident.
The independent Infected Blood Inquiry started yesterday with a commemoration service in London to pay tribute to those who have died.
Their loved ones and living victims were at Church House for the first day of preliminary hearings.
Jackie Britton, from Portchester, travelled to London after being affected by the scandal which saw her contract hepatitis C after a blood transfusion in childbirth. She will be giving evidence as part of the inquiry which is expected to last at least two years.
Her story was part of the commemoration service. In a tearful video, she said: ‘I was absolutely devastated when I found out and my second daughter and husband had to be tested as emergencies.
‘Waiting for their results to come back were the worst days of my life. I could deal with my diagnosis but I could not have coped if I had infected them.
‘We just took every day at a time and I started planning my own funeral. You go to a very dark place.’
She added: ‘I want the answers to my questions. When did they know there was a problem, what did they try to do to sort it, why didn’t they look for people sooner?
‘They need to find every single person infected and give them a life.’
The emotional service told the story of the scandal which saw more than 4,000 people infected with HIV and hepatitis C after being given contaminated blood in the 1980s and 1990s.
Half of the victims were haemophiliacs who were given the blood as part of a product to help with their condition. The success of the product meant pharmaceutical companies were in need of more blood, and prison inmates and drug addicts in America were paid for samples.
These samples were mixed up and infected blood was given to the NHS and used for other patients.
Alan Vickers, from Landport, also travelled to London to remember his wife Sally who died last August. She was a victim after having blood transfusions when she was a teenager.
Speaking at the first preliminary hearing, chairman of the inquiry Sir Brian Langstaff said: ‘I cannot be glad that you are here at all. But by your sheer numbers you are drawing attention to the importance of this inquiry.
’I would like to say thank you to everyone who spoke to me during the consultation periods. All your stories were individual and have already taught me a lot.
‘The inquiry is not taking evidence or hearing the individual stories during these preliminary hearings. I am here to listen to what you have to say rather than express a view I have.
‘It is about how we can best help to shape the inquiry’s procedures to address the mammoth task it has set itself.
‘I want to put people at the heart of this inquiry.’