Hundreds of people could have been saved from HIV in Scotland 30 years ago

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Hundreds of people could have been prevented from contacting the virus if English health authorities accepted a helping hand from Scottish specialists in 70s-80s. It could have saved almost 3000 lives. As many as 30,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were infected with HIV-positive blood in what is now known to be the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history. At the time the UK was struggling to keep up with the demand for a clotting treatment called Factor VIII, which is made using human blood plasma. The NHS opted to import blood from the US, but the risks of blood-borne diseases were not fully understood and many donors were prison inmates or drug addicts. A newly-emerged letter from January 1990 revealed that health officials made “a grave error of judgment” in rejecting offers of help from a Scottish facility capable to provide the life-saving treatment. Written by the then-director of the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service, professor John Cash, it states that the first offer of help was made in the late 1960s, and again between 1980 and 1981 after production tests showed the Scottish facility had “very substantial” spare capacity.

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