Doctors didn't tell me that I was HIV positive for three years

A HAEMOPHILIAC treated at the old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has claimed doctors kept news he was infected with HIV from him for three years as part of secret tests.

Robert Mackie says his medical records show he was infected with HIV in 1984 but he was not told by doctors until 1987.

Mr Mackie is one of thousands of patients with the blood condition haemophilia who were exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C from blood products they received during the 1970s and 1980s.

The claims come as the first full hearing of an independent public inquiry into the supply of contaminated NHS blood to haemophiliacs opens today.

Mr Mackie was treated by Professor Christopher Ludlam at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In a medical newsletter in 1990, Professor Ludlam described a group of patients in Scotland that had formed the basis of several years worth of research he had carried out into AIDS.

Mr Mackie checked his medical records after seeing this newsletter and discovered that although he was infected in 1984 he was not informed until 1987.

He claims the words "AIDS study" were also clearly written in his medical notes.

Today's hearing follows claims on the BBC's Newsnight programme that Britain's doctors ignored warnings about using haemophiliacs to test out new blood products. The programme claimed that from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, 4500 haemophiliacs in the United Kingdom were exposed to lethal viruses through blood products designed to help them.

Newsnight disclosed many haemophiliacs became infected from supplies of the clotting agent Factor 8 from abroad, and unknown to them at the time, much of the plasma came from donors such as prison inmates in the US who were allowed to sell their blood even though there were questions about their health.

The programme said that many official documents had "mysteriously disappeared", although the Government claimed some were shredded and others had not been released on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Speaking to the programme, Mr Mackie said: "They are saying they didn't know about the AIDS virus. By June 1983, when the European Commissioners put out a warning that all haemophiliacs in Europe were to be informed of the risk of AIDS, why weren't we warned of the risks?"

Meanwhile, Lord Morris of Manchester, a former Minister for the Disabled, who has campaigned for years on this issue said today was "historic" for the haemophilia community.

Previous governments had all, he claimed, "resolutely resisted" calls for a public inquiry.

Lord Morris, who is also President of the Haemophilia Society, said: "For the first time the voices of the victims, which have so far gone unheard, will be heard.

"All previous inquiries have been held behind closed doors at the Department of Health.

"Now, the people who know most about this tragedy, the victims, will finally be able to speak out. This will be an historic day for the haemophilia community."

NHS Lothian said Professor Ludlow did not want to comment and neither did the health authority's board at this stage.