Man who lost brothers to HIV because of contaminated blood says they were branded the ‘AIDS family’ 

A man who lost three of his brothers to HIV after they were given contaminated blood during haemophilia treatment told how his loved ones were branded the ‘AIDS family’. 

John Cornes, 58, explained how his brothers’ graves were defaced with swearwords and likened his family’s abuse to the treatment the Irish received in the aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. 

The contaminated blood scandal has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS

 

groom Garry Cornes was dead at 26, having contracted HIV and hepatitis C from infected NHS blood. In 1994 youngest brother Roy (far right) also died from HIV. The next year eldest brother Gordon was dead too. He had been unable to attend the wedding as he was in hospital. Tragically, bride Lee Cornes was the next to die, after being infected trying for a baby with Garry. Alan (far left) died in 2017 aged 58. 

The dead brothers are survived by Paul (third left), John (second right), an unnamed brother (second left) and the boys’ sister Merle (third right

Alan Cornes (far left), Garry Cornes (the groom), his bride Lee Cornes, and youngest brother Roy Cornes all died as victims of the tainted blood scandal

 

Alan Cornes (far left), Garry Cornes (the groom), his bride Lee Cornes, and youngest brother Roy Cornes all died as victims of the tainted blood scandal

Alan Cornes (far left), Garry Cornes (the groom), his bride Lee Cornes, and youngest brother Roy Cornes all died as victims of the tainted blood scandal

Alan Cornes (far left), Garry Cornes (the groom), his bride Lee Cornes, and youngest brother Roy Cornes all died as victims of the tainted blood scandal 

Around 4,800 people with haemophilia are believed to have been infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s after receiving contaminated blood products from the NHS.

More than 2,000 patients are believed to have died as a result, including those who suffered from the genetic disorder which affects the blood’s ability to clot. 

They had been given contaminated blood products such as Factor VIII. 

On Tuesday, Mr Cornes told the Infected Blood Inquiry that he was one of six brothers to suffer from haemophilia.

Mr Cornes, of Kings Heath, Birmingham, explained how he remembered being treated with the frozen blood product cryoprecipitate as well as Factor VIII blood-clotting products in the 1970s.

John Cornes, 58, explained how his brothers' graves were defaced with swearwords and likened his family's abuse to the treatment the Irish received in the aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974

John Cornes, 58, explained how his brothers' graves were defaced with swearwords and likened his family's abuse to the treatment the Irish received in the aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974

John Cornes, 58, explained how his brothers’ graves were defaced with swearwords and likened his family’s abuse to the treatment the Irish received in the aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974

On Tuesday, Mr Cornes (pictured with his son Ryan) told the Infected Blood Inquiry that he was one of six brothers to suffer from haemophilia

On Tuesday, Mr Cornes (pictured with his son Ryan) told the Infected Blood Inquiry that he was one of six brothers to suffer from haemophilia

On Tuesday, Mr Cornes (pictured with his son Ryan) told the Infected Blood Inquiry that he was one of six brothers to suffer from haemophilia

When asked what information he was given about treatments by doctors, Mr Cornes, who started attending the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the age of 15, said: ‘We weren’t given none.

‘We didn’t ask the question. They didn’t come forward with the possibilities of how it could affect us in the future.’

Discussing the day that his brother, Gary, realised that he had HIV, Mr Cornes said: ‘He was sobbing his heart out.’

The inquiry heard how Gary passed away on Remembrance Sunday 1992 aged 26, leaving behind his wife, who herself died in 2000 after contracting HIV from him.

Just a month after Gary had been diagnosed with HIV, another of his brothers, Roy, was told that he too had the condition, and he also died at the age of 26 in May 1994.

He told how Roy inadvertently infected a girl with HIV between being his diagnosis and his death and she died before he did.

Mr Cornes said that the ‘press got hold of it’ and ‘came down on the family’, saying: ‘In Birmingham, we were known as the scumbags, the AIDS family.’

When asked what information he was given about treatments by doctors, Mr Cornes, who started attending the city's Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the age of 15, said: 'We weren't given none'

When asked what information he was given about treatments by doctors, Mr Cornes, who started attending the city's Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the age of 15, said: 'We weren't given none'

When asked what information he was given about treatments by doctors, Mr Cornes, who started attending the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital at the age of 15, said: ‘We weren’t given none’

He explained how vandals defaced Roy’s grave, saying that it had the word ‘sh**’ written on it and had stones thrown at it.

He explained how vandals defaced Roy's grave, saying that it had the word 'sh**' written on it and had stones thrown at it

He explained how vandals defaced Roy's grave, saying that it had the word 'sh**' written on it and had stones thrown at it

He explained how vandals defaced Roy’s grave, saying that it had the word ‘sh**’ written on it and had stones thrown at it

Likening the treatment they received to that of the Irish following Birmingham pub bombings, he said: ‘I can totally understand the way the Irish community were affected by the bombings and it wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t our fault, what happened to us.’

He was giving evidence during the first day of witness hearings at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Leeds city centre.

The inquiry heard how a third brother of Mr Cornes, Gordon, was diagnosed with HIV three months after Roy, and died in December 1995.

Mr Cornes said that his mother, who he described as a ‘big, strong woman’, suffered a heart attack and died shortly after Gordon.

He told the assembled audience: ‘I have got a load of nephews and nieces from the brothers who have died and I have nephews that haven’t got a mother or a father.

‘So it’s affected at least 30 of my family.

‘So I am here to represent not just the infected, but also the affected. I didn’t really want to do this, but there is a need.’

Mr Cornes went on to explain how he and two more of his brothers were diagnosed with hepatitis C, with one of them dying after suffering a brain haemorrhage which he said was the result of the ‘stress and anxiety’ of the illness.

Mr Cornes went on to explain how he and two more of his brothers were diagnosed with hepatitis C, with one of them dying after suffering a brain haemorrhage which he said was the result of the 'stress and anxiety' of the illness

Mr Cornes went on to explain how he and two more of his brothers were diagnosed with hepatitis C, with one of them dying after suffering a brain haemorrhage which he said was the result of the 'stress and anxiety' of the illness

Mr Cornes went on to explain how he and two more of his brothers were diagnosed with hepatitis C, with one of them dying after suffering a brain haemorrhage which he said was the result of the ‘stress and anxiety’ of the illness

During the afternoon session of the inquiry, Jo-Anne Cohrs explained how she lost her husband, Keith, to Aids and hepatitis C in 1987 after his haemophilia was treated with Factor VIII

During the afternoon session of the inquiry, Jo-Anne Cohrs explained how she lost her husband, Keith, to Aids and hepatitis C in 1987 after his haemophilia was treated with Factor VIII

During the afternoon session of the inquiry, Jo-Anne Cohrs explained how she lost her husband, Keith, to Aids and hepatitis C in 1987 after his haemophilia was treated with Factor VIII

A timeline of the contaminated blood scandal which began in the early-1970s

1972: NHS starts importing large batches of Factor VIII products from United States to help clot blood of haemophiliacs. 

1974: Some researchers warn that Factor VIII could be contaminated and spreading hepatitis.

Late-1970s: Patients continue to be given Factor VIII, with much of the plasma used to make the product coming from donors such as prison inmates, drug addicts and prostitutes.

1983: Governments in both the UK and the United States are told that Aids has been spread through blood products.

Mid-1980s: By now the blood products such as Factor VIII, were being heat-treated to kill viruses, but thousands of patients had already been infected. 

1991: Blood products imported from US are withdrawn from use. The government awards ex-gratia payments to haemophiliac victims threatening to sue. 

2007: Privately-funded inquiry into scandal set up by Lord Archer of Sandwell but it does not get offical status and relies on donations.

2008: Penrose Inquiry launched, but victims claim the seven-year investigation was a ‘whitewash’. 

2017: Independent inquiry into contaminated blood scandal announced by Prime Minister Theresa May. 

April, 2019: Infected Blood Inquiry starts hearing evidence.

A second witness, Graham Binks, explained how his late wife Margaret, a former primary school teacher in Leeds, contracted what was described as ‘chronic active hepatitis’, after being given blood transfusions following the birth of their two sons in 1972 and 1974.

Explaining how having to tell his two young sons that their mother had died was ‘far and away the hardest thing I have had to do’, he said: ‘I told them that she told us to be like the Three Musketeers.

‘So, I sat them on my knee and said ‘all for one, and one for all’.’

Telling how he could not be certain that the blood transfusions led directly to her diagnosis, he added: ‘I hadn’t expected to find myself a widower at the age of 33.

‘You never, ever fully recover from the death of a partner. Even 39 years on, I’m no stranger to tears.’

During the afternoon session, Jo-Anne Cohrs explained how she lost her husband, Keith, to Aids and hepatitis C in 1987 after his haemophilia was treated with Factor VIII.

She said that her husband’s condition was revealed when, following hospital tests, they received a letter in 1984 with the words ‘Aids – don’t die of ignorance’ stamped on the front of the envelope.

Mrs Cohrs explained how she later learned that her husband had hepatitis C when she looked at a piece of documentation on his haematologist’s desk which said ‘non-A, non-B’ on it.

She said she thought: ‘There’s hepatitis A, hepatitis B. What’s this non-A, non-B thing? Why don’t they call it hepatitis C? And if he has hepatitis C, could there be D, E, X, Y, Z? What else is he going to pick up?’

He died in March 1987 and Mrs Cohrs told the inquiry how, weeks after his death, a yellow bag of medical waste that was due to be picked up by the local authority remained outside their home, saying: ‘It was so stigmatising, so uncaring.’

She said that she had the impression that journalists had at that time looked to report the story using ‘innuendos’ and ‘tit bits’, with the experience inspiring her to write a book in 1989 named Stigma: Aids Widow’s Story.

The inquiry, which is due to sit in Leeds until the end of next week, also heard a couple detail their agony after losing their 10-year-old son to HIV when he was given infected blood. 

They told how their son, Lee – who was diagnosed with severe haemophilia six months after his birth in 1981 – was given Factor VIII protein from the age of one then diagnosed with HIV aged four.

After he died aged 10 in January 1992, the family said they discovered Lee had also contracted hepatitis C. 

The inquiry continues.

A scandal sparked with blood sold by US prisoners

The blood contamination scandal was sparked by tainted blood plasma products that were given to thousands of NHS patients including haemophiliacs or those needing transfusions.

A new treatment introduced in the early 1970s involved the use of clotting agent Factor VIII.

Since Britain was struggling to keep up with the demand, supplies were sourced from the US.

Much of the plasma used to make the product came from donors such as prison inmates, drug addicts and prostitutes – who sold blood which turned out to be infected.

By the mid-1980s, the blood products were being heat-treated to kill viruses, but thousands of patients had already been infected.

Around 5,000 people with haemophilia and other blood disorders are thought to have been infected with HIV and hepatitis over a period of more than 20 years, according to the BBC. Almost 3,000 of them have since died.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced in July last year that an inquiry would be held into the events over the two decades.

The announcement was welcomed at the time by campaigners, who have been pressing for years for an inquiry into the import of the clotting agent Factor VIII from the US

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