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Wednesday, 22 July, 1998, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Hepatitis sufferers on the march
Blood
More than 4,000 haemophiliacs were infected by contaminated blood
Campaigners for haemophiliacs infected with the potentially fatal liver disease hepatatis C are marching on Downing Street to demand compensation.

They will lay 90 white lilies on the steps of the prime minister's home, to remember the 90 haemophiliacs who have died as a result of being treated on the NHS with infected blood.

They will also present a petition and lobby Parliament.

They want the government to recognise its responsibility for infecting almost all of the 4,800 haemophiliacs who were treated with contaminated blood before 1986. They are also demanding compensation.

Responsible

Members of the Haemophilia Society and its sub-group, the Manor House Group, a charity for people with haemophilia and hepatitis C, met the Health Secretary Frank Dobson in September to discuss compensation.

Haemophilia Society
The Haemophilia Society wants government compensation
They have heard nothing from the Department of Health since then. A spokesperson said the government was still considering its position.

The Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, Karin Pappenheim, said: "The government has a moral responsibility to provide financial recompense to people with haemophilia infected with hepatitis C through their NHS treatment with contaminated blood products in the same way as has been done for those infected with HIV."

Potential death threat

One of the campaigners going to Downing Street on Wednesday is 39-year-old Paul Bullen, from Cheshire.

He was infected in the late 1970s after receiving treatment for a muscle bleed. He began feeling ill soon after.

He says it is hard enough having haemophilia without having a potential death threat hanging over him.

Hepatitis C carriers also face difficulties in other areas of their lives. For example, they are unable to get a mortgage or life insurance.

Hepatitis C is the most important cause of chronic hepatitis and liver disease.

Eighty-five per cent of people with it develop chronic hepatitis. Around 20% develop cirrhosis of the liver. The disease also brings a higher risk of liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is transmitted through the blood, for example, by sharing needles, and through sexual intercourse.

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Rod Whiting reports on the hepatitis sufferers' campaign
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