BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Aids scandals around the world
French victims' families
Many families blamed politicians for the contamination
China is the latest country to admit that Aids is cutting a swathe through its population, but Aids-related scandals have dogged many other countries since the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the most high-profile cases was that of France's tainted blood scandal, which saw a former health minister convicted for failing adequately to screen blood which led to the deaths from Aids of five people, and the contamination of two others during a key period in 1985.

Aids scandals around the world
France: About 4,000 given infected blood in the mid-1980s
Canada: About 2,000 people infected before blood tests began in 1985
Italy: Some 1,300 people have died from infected blood infusions since 1985
Japan: Over 1,400 haemophiliacs were exposed to HIV through tainted blood; at least 500 thought to have died
Two French ministers were acquitted of manslaughter.

About 4,000 people, many of them haemophiliacs, were given blood infected with the virus.

Many of those contaminated have since died. In most cases they received transfusions before the link between HIV, Aids and blood was fully understood.

All three politicians were alleged to have delayed the introduction of a US blood-screening test in France until a rival French product was ready to go on the market.

No blood tests

In April of this year, Canada's Supreme Court found the Canadian Red Cross guilty of negligence for failing to screen blood donors effectively for HIV infection.

Three suits were brought against the Red Cross by people who received tainted blood. Two of them subsequently died of Aids and the third is HIV positive.

Blood was not always properly screened
About 2,000 people were infected with HIV and up to 60,000 with Hepatitis C before blood tests began in late 1985.

Blood tests for Aids had not been developed at the time, so screening of donors was the most effective way of preventing infection.

In Italy, a Rome court ordered the Health Ministry in June of this year to pay damages to 351 people who contracted the HIV virus and hepatitis through blood transfusions.

The court said the ministry was too slow to introduce measures to prevent the virus being spread by donated blood, and did not establish proper checks on plasma.

About 100 of the victims - all haemophiliacs - have already died, but the court ruled that their families were entitled to the compensation.

Angelo Magrini, the head of a haemophiliacs' association, said at the time 1,300 people, including almost 150 children, had died in Italy from infected blood infusions since 1985.


In March this year, a court in Tokyo cleared a former top Aids expert of professional negligence over a scandal that exposed thousands to the HIV virus through tainted blood products.

The high-profile scandal, which grabbed headlines in the mid-1990s, shocked Japan with allegations of a government cover-up and unethical links between big business and bureaucrats.

Japan's Health Ministry did not ban unheated blood products until December 1985, despite knowing they risked being tainted with HIV.

Over 1,400 Japanese haemophiliacs were exposed to HIV as a result, and more than 500 are believed to have died.

In February 2000, three former drug company executives accused of selling blood products tainted with HIV were given prison terms.

Negligence charges

In Iran in the late 1990s, the former head of Iran's blood transfusion centre also went on trial over allegations that patients contracted the HIV virus after receiving contaminated blood.

Dr Farhadi and two other doctors faced several charges including negligence in importing HIV-tainted supplies from France.

The case followed complaints lodged by families of some 170 people, many of them children, suffering from haemophilia and the blood disease thalassemia.

The prosecution at the time said hundreds of people had contracted diseases including HIV and hepatitis through contaminated transfusions.


And in Portugal, a court indicted a former health minister over an Aids scandal dating back to her time in office during the 1980s.

The court said the minister, Leonor Beleza, should be tried for propagating a contagious disease.

The decision refers back to a case in which more than 100 Portuguese haemophiliacs were infected with the Aids virus after receiving transfusions of contaminated plasma that had been imported and distributed by the public health service.

See also:

28 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Doctor cleared in HIV scandal
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's burgeoning Aids epidemic
09 Jun 99 | Middle East
Contaminated blood AIDS trial in Iran
09 Mar 99 | Europe
Acquittals in French blood trial
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories