‘My treatment was a success –what happened next was the tragedy’
Robert Hodgkins was four when he was infected as a result of contaminated blood products. He has given oral evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry, but found it difficult to fully describe the impact his infections have had on him.
Robert, who has severe haemophilia A and was infected with HIV and hepatitis C, D and B, said: “There’s only been four years when it’s not been part of my life. It has been part of my life for so long it is almost impossible to actually summarise that.”
Having been treated with factor VIII concentrate for 47 years, Robert is keen that people outside the haemophilia community understand its positive impact as well as the tragedy that its contamination triggered. Robert, 51, said: “I walked to the Inquiry. A lot of people that don’t live with haemophilia don’t understand how big a deal that is. I’ve been able to do things in my life that I never would have been able to even consider without factor VIII. “You can’t ignore the success because it is the fact that the treatment was so successful that makes this such a tragedy. My treatment didn’t cause any problems for me. It was the perversion of the drug companies that ruined it and the idiocy of the government in allowing that to happen.
“Factor VIII was the greatest success in NHS history that became the greatest tragedy. For some people that might not be a big deal, but for me it is because that shows you how far and how bad it was.”
Although Robert has campaigned for a public inquiry, he questions whether enough evidence still exists to allow the Infected Blood Inquiry to produce a hard-hitting report.
He believes the government should have accepted existing evidence about contaminated blood and offered a fair compensation settlement for those infected and affected. For him, there are many questions unanswered, including who made key decisions to use commercial factor VIII and why.
Robert said: “If you buy a car and it kills your family then you go back and you sue the company that makes the car and you get some sort of recompense. You don’t buy that car again. The government kept on going back and buying that treatment. Why did they do that?”
Robert has lived with his HIV diagnosis since he was 15 and is acutely aware that he is among an increasingly small group of survivors. He said: “I just feel strongly that I want to see some form of justice and acknowledgement from government over what’s happened. The way I think about surviving is that they’re not many of us but enough of us to still see some sort of acknowledgement.”