Iraqis Sue Western Firms Over AIDS

Several Iraqis are suing two foreign pharmaceutical giants for compensation after HIV-contaminated blood sold to Iraq in the 1980s.

Iraqis Sue Western Firms Over AIDS

After decades of unbearablesufferings and social stigmatization, several Iraqis are suing two foreignpharmaceutical giants for compensation after contracting AIDS throughHIV-contaminated blood sold to Iraqin the 1980s to treat child hemophiliacs with a hereditary bleeding disease.

"We are now asking for 238 million dollars,i.e. one million dollars for each victim," Said Ismail Haqi, Head of theIraqi Red Crescent Society, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, March27.

French firm Merieux and Austrian outfit Immuno AGhad sold contaminated blood-clotting agents to the Iraqi Health Ministry in the1980s to treat children with a hereditary bleeding disease.

The Red Crescent Society says that by 1986 some 186children were infected with HIV, some of whom later infected husbands and wivesthrough sex after marriage.

"They were unaware they were patients and somemarried unknowing they had the symptoms," said Haqi, whose name in Arabicmeans "my right".

The society estimates 199 Iraqis have already diedwhile another 39 infected patients are fast facing the same fate.

On April 8, a Baghdadcourt will examine the case targeting Sanofi-Aventis, which acquired Merieux,and US-based Baxter International, in which Immuno AG has since beenincorporated.

Haqi said the patients have rejected a"humiliating" out-of-court settlement offer from Sanofi-Aventis.

He fumed that the French company offered a merger of5,000 to 25,000 dollars per patient.

"This is not enough for treatment. Only 5,000?Is this what a patient is worth because he is Iraqi?"

When contacted by AFP in Paris, Sanofi-Aventisdeclined to comment while a spokesman for Baxter was unable to confirm that thecompany had received a copy of the complaint and was therefore not in aposition to comment.

In 1996, four drug companies, including Baxter,agreed to pay 640 million dollars to up to 6,000 American hemophiliacs whocontracted AIDS through their blood products.

Stigmatized

The victims have suffered for decades in a countrywhere AIDS represents the ultimate social stigma and neither the means nor theopportunity to purchase adequate, up-to-date medication was an option.

"Two to three people die every year for lack ofmedicine. Entire families were doomed because a member was suffering fromAIDS," Haqi said.

"Families of the victims have been living intragic conditions for a quarter of a century."

As children began to fall ill in the mid-1980s, thegovernment ordered them into brutal hospital isolation, ignorantly believingHIV was a virus that could spread like tuberculosis.

"My brother was eight when the government tookhim from school into the Tuwaitha hospital," recalls Hanan Abdul Karim, adoctor in her mid-30s.

"It was practically a detention camp," shesaid fighting back the tears. "He used to get his food handed through thewindow."

The family was allowed to see but never approachDiaa once a month for eight years.

Even in death, they were barred from bidding himfarewell.

"They put his body in a steel box and wouldn'tlet us open it," said the doctor who like four other sisters did not findsuitors because of the AIDS stigma.

Khalid Ali Jaber lost five hemophiliac sons to AIDSbetween 1986 and 1996.

"I had to move house four times so peoplewouldn't find out," he recalled.

"People refused to eat during the wakes I heldfor my sons believing that AIDS could be transferred through the mouth."

Source:Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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