‘We need to remember our past’: commemorating Canada’s tainted blood tragedy
Brittany Lee-Acton’s two-year-old son has severe hemophilia, a genetic disorder in which blood doesn’t clot normally.
Lee-Acton’s father, Jeff Lee, also had the genetic disease. In the late ’80s, along with thousands of other Canadians, Lee received tainted blood through a transfusion and was infected with HIV.
On her eighth birthday, Lee-Acton lost her dad.
“It’s a different way of growing up and having AIDS in your family. There was a lot of stigma then, there still is a lot of stigma,” Lee-Acton said.
On Saturday, a small group gathered at TCU Place in Saskatoon to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the release of the inquiry into Canada’s tainted blood tragedy.
The Krever Commission spent four years investigating the tragedy. The inquiry called for an accountable, nationwide public blood service, creating what is now known as Canadian Blood Services.
“Research has come so far — we lost a generation in this, but we have something to look forward to now,” Lee-Acton said.
“It’s a huge reminder that we need to remember our past. We need to know where we’re from or we’re destined to repeat it,” Lee-Acton said. “I will teach my son about his grandpa and everything that (he) went through.”
The Canadian Hemophilia Society estimates more than 1,100 Canadians were infected by HIV, 700 of whom had hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, after receiving tainted blood transfusions in the 1980s.
The society also estimates up to 20,000 people were infected with hepatitis C. Eric Stolte’s son was among those affected.
“He was 16 years old when we found out about it. He’s 40 now. Hepatitis C works very insidiously on your liver. His liver was just starting to be compromised, but new treatments have come out that are 90 to 100 per cent effective,” Stolte said.
“It’s sometimes difficult for us to say our journey started with a lot of incredible grievous loss, but where we’ve come from is something we do not want to forget,” Hemophilia Saskatchewan president Wendy Quinn said.
The tainted blood tragedy is said to be one of the worst public health disasters Canada has faced.
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