Infected Blood Inquiry: South Shields woman whose father was infected with HIV is still haunted by loss

A South Shields woman whose father died after being given contaminated blood hopes a new inquiry will finally reveal the truth.

Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 8:42 am

Thousands of people were given blood products infected with hepatitis and HIV during the 1970s and 80s.

Emma Weatheritt’s father Jeffrey Frane died in 1991 at the age of just 39.

Jeffrey was a haemophiliac, who became ill after infected in the mid 1980s.

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“The blood products he was given to help his haemophilia were contaminated,” said Emma.

“He was diagnosed with HIV. He was very, very poorly. Several years after he death, we were informed he had also contracted hepatitis B.”

Concerned by coverage of the scandal, Jeffrey and wife Denise were initially assured there was nothing to worry about.

Now 45, Emma was just 11 when she discovered her dad was ill, after seeing an item on the TV news.

“It was horrendous,” she said.

“I had always known he was a haemophiliac, it was part of our lives.

“But there was all the coverage of HIV and Aids, the Government sticking fliers through people’s doors, telling people there no cure.

“It was in the very early days of them being told, they were trying to get it into their heads.

“Just by chance, I had seen something on the telly. They were very honest - well, as honest as you can be when you don’t know how long someone has left.”

Emma remembers the stigma surrounding a disease which was believed to be spread through drug use or unprotected sex: “It was such a secretive disease,” she said.

“Nobody was aware of this totally innocent group of people who had contracted it through no fault of their own. Nobody wanted to know, they thought they would catch it.”

Emma, who is now herself a mum to 17-year-old Charlie, was in London for yesterday’s opening of the inquiry, which began with tributes to the 2,400 people, including Jeffrey, who died as a result of the scandal.

It was a day of mixed emotions,said Emma: “The commemoration was lovely, but you had 500 people sitting in a room who had lost dads, brothers, sons, people who had lost children, people who had lost parents and then you had the victims who are still alive, people who are still living with this after all this time.”

Emma doesn’t want the new inquiry to became a witch-hunt: “That won’t bring my dad back,” she said.

“I just want the truth - the whole truth. I want it brought to the public’s attention that this was an absolute disaster that could have been prevented.

“I just want somebody to say ‘This is the truth’.”