My boyfriend didn’t tell me he had HIV – until he gave it to me
Debra Todd, 44, put years of ill health down to stress. But the truth was far more shocking…
‘…the question is, shouldn’t NHS accept liability and pay compensation to many people whose quality of life today, is gravely impacted because they were infected with HIV through negligent practices of NHS?’
I never knew my partner was HIV positive . We’d been together for six years when he finally admitted the truth.
After a series of health problems – including encephalitis, a serious condition which causes inflammation of the brain – he was rushed to hospital on Boxing Day of 2002.
I realised something was seriously wrong when his brother emerged from his room in floods of tears.
I asked if my partner was dying. His brother replied: “Please God, get him to tell you the truth.”
I don’t remember much of the conversation that followed – I think perhaps I’ve blocked out some of the detail because it’s so painful.
All I know is that my partner told me he was HIV positive and that he’d been infected when he was given contaminated blood products from the United States when he was a teenager.
Suddenly, everything fell into place and I vomited into the sink.
I already knew that he suffered from haemophilia, a genetic condition which affects the body’s ability to control blood clotting.
Before the NHS started to screen blood donors in the 1980s, around 4,800 haemophiliacs were given contaminated blood.
I just knew he’d given me the virus. After moving in together two years after meeting in Liverpool, we’d decided we no longer needed to use condoms. Shortly afterwards, I became very ill.
I developed an angry rash, a fever and I began coughing up blood but doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of what was wrong with me.
I had no idea that my partner had been diagnosed with the virus 15 years previously, or that he wasn’t taking the antiretroviral medications which might have prevented the virus spreading to me.
Over the next 18 months, I suffered constant ear and chest infections and I was permanently exhausted, but I put it down to my demanding job as a teacher. It never occurred to me that my partner could have infected me with HIV.
Even when he became seriously ill himself and was prescribed medication usually used to treat sufferers, I didn’t put two and two together.
When I finally learned the truth, I looked out of the seventh floor hospital window and I seriously considered jumping.
The next few days passed in a haze of tests and hospital appointments.
A consultant reassured me that HIV wasn’t the death sentence that it was back in the 1980s – the condition could be controlled by medication and I’d still be able to have children.
But it didn’t register. I’d fainted when they took blood to test. When they finally diagnosed me I still thought that was the end of my life.
Telling my family was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do – it’s the only time I’ve seen my dad cry.
Perhaps it was shock, but I remained with my partner for 15 months after I was diagnosed.
I even temporarily gave up work to become his carer but soon I realised I resented him too much for knowingly infecting me. In time, I met my now partner Neil, 44. Thanks to medication, we’ve been able to have two children.
The drugs I’m on are so effective I’m able to live my life, although there are side effects.
Still, life is a struggle. I’m speaking out because I want to fight for compensation for partners of haemophiliacs who have been infected with HIV. My ex-partner died in January at the age of 45.
The government has never admitted liability for what became the biggest man-made post-war disaster the NHS has ever seen.
Those affected have been battling for compensation now for more than three decades.
Patients who were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through health service treatment receive ex gratia payments from charities set up by the Government – but the Department of Health has now presented us with the indignity of having to fight to keep these.
They are proposing to cap them at £15,000.
I’m grateful that HIV is not the life sentence it once was, but I can’t rest until I know that my children will be provided for.
What is HIV
HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system and weakens ability to fight diseases.It is most commonly caught by having sex without a condom. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy and by sharing needles.Although there is no cure, most sufferers can now live long and healthy lives thanks to antiretro-viral drugs.Without these, those infected can develop Aids, the final stages when the body can no longer fight dangerous infections.It is a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly infect another person with HIV. You risk being convicted of GBH, which carries a maximum of 25 years.
Lets us know what you think of this article. Like? Dislike? Funny? Interesting? Cool? Drop us a line in the comment box or join us on facebook and twitter to help us give you a better reading experience