St Neots father calling on Government to stand by pre-election promise on HIV payments

Barry Farrugia

Barry Farrugia - Credit: Archant

A St Neots father-of-three whose family was torn apart by a health scandal which claimed thousands of lives has called on the government to deliver its pre-election promise to make amends for years of suffering.

Tony Farrugia spent much of his childhood in care separated from his siblings after their father was fatally infected with HIV and hepatitis during routine NHS treatments.

Barry Farrugia was one of thousands of haemophiliacs – many now dead – who were given contaminated blood products made using donations from high risk groups, such as drug addicts, prostitutes and prisoners.

In a deadly medical oversight, many of those infected suffered years of ill health, premature deaths, social stigma and family breakdowns.

But while other countries, such as Ireland, offered significant sums to victims, in the UK no satisfactory payment has yet been made.

Hopes grew for such a settlement after David Cameron announced he would treat it as a matter of urgency earlier this year. The Prime Minister also promised £25 million to “ease transition” to a reformed support system.

In July, however, it was announced no decisions on spending would be taken until the autumn spending review on (November 25), while it is now thought to be “very unlikely” any announcement will come before next April.

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The Department of Health said reforming the payment “remains a priority” and it will finalise proposals following a public consultation after the spending review.

Not convinced, Tony has repeated his calls for the prime minister to deliver his promise.

“People have been fighting for this for the past 30 years and we want it to end,” he said.

Tony’s father first told him he was dying from HIV in a children’s home on his 14th birthday. He had been infected with hepatitis B and C while receiving treatment in 1977, but was not informed immediately. In the early 80s he was exposed to HIV during further treatment in London but again was unaware for years.

As Barry’s health worsened, Tony and his siblings were kept away in an attempt to shield them from the trauma of their father’s descent into ill health.

Soon after Tony learnt of his father’s condition, Barry was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Tony saw him just once more before his death in 1986, aged 37.

The siblings were separated and did not reunite for 24 years.

Meanwhile their uncles Victor and David, also haemophiliacs, were infected, and have both since died.

Although he has now been reunited with his brothers and has three children of his own, Tony feels let down by successive governments.

Even now, with the pre-election promises made, Tony still doubts the government will deliver.

“It seems like they are just tweaking the system rather than giving people the full overhaul that it needs and listening to what we are saying,” he said. “I’m so angry with these empty promises. There are orphans who lost both their parents to this; they have no one to turn to for help either emotionally or financially, and yet the government seem likely to shun them again.”