USA Today Examines HIV/AIDS Among Hemophiliacs, History of Virus in U.S. Blood Supply

USA Today on Wednesday examined HIV/AIDS among hemophiliacs and the history of the virus in the U.S. blood supply. Hemophilia, a condition in which a person's blood does not clot normally, mostly occurs in men, and hemophiliacs need transfusions of clotting factors on a regular basis, USA Today reports. According to USA Today, about 10,000 hemophiliacs had contracted HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C from tainted blood products by the mid-1980s, many of them "before doctors figured out what was causing" HIV/AIDS. "Despite mounting evidence that AIDS was spreading among hemophiliacs" in the early 1980s, the National Hemophilia Foundation advised patients to continue taking clotting factors "as prescribed," and "[t]he result was one of the biggest medical disasters ever," USA Today reports. According to a 1995 report by the Institute of Medicine, federal regulators, hemophilia advocates and companies that supplied blood products to hemophiliacs failed to "act quickly enough" to prevent the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases through blood products. Thousands of hemophiliacs have filed lawsuits against the U.S. government and drug companies that produced the tainted blood products. Many of the lawsuits were settled by giving $100,000 payouts to the hemophiliacs and their families, USA Today reports. Blood products now are genetically engineered and heat-treated to eliminate nearly all viruses, according to USA Today (Sternberg [1], USA Today, 7/12).

HIV/AIDS Splinters Hemophilia Community
In a related article, USA Today examined the splintering of hemophilia foundations and advocacy organizations after the spread of HIV/AIDS among hemophiliacs. After "many hemophiliacs blame[d]" NHF for "urging them to continue using clotting factors that gave them HIV," a new group, called the Hemophilia Federation of America, emerged. A third hemophilia group, Committee of Ten Thousand, also was founded after the NHF controversy. The three foundations currently are working together, according to Neil Frick of NHF. "We want to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again," Frick said (Sternberg [2], USA Today, 7/12).

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