Lord Mayor Treloar College for disabled pupils offered treatment alongside schooling for boys living with haemophilia (Image: BBC)
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A man who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C in the infected blood scandal at his school says he has been left an "angry old man" after losing 72 of his friends.
Gary Webster, 56, was among boys sent to a specialist school where pupils were given infected blood products were not given details of the treatment they were receiving, an inquiry has heard.
Pupils at the Lord Mayor Treloar College, a boarding school in Hampshire, in the 1970s and 1980s, received treatment for haemophilia at an on-site NHS centre.
But it was later found that many pupils with the condition, which has no cure and impairs the body's ability to make blood clots, had been given blood products which were infected with hepatitis and HIV.
Out of 89 children who attended the school for disabled children in the 1980s, less than a quarter are still alive.
Mr Webster, who was diagnosed with haemophilia when he was six months old, was shocked to be told he had been infected with Hepatitis C and HIV at age 18.
Ex-Treloar pupils (L-R) Gary Webster, Owen Savill, Stephen Nicholls, Lee Stay, Ade Goodyear and Julian Gatrick attend the years-long inquiry in May 2019
(Image: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock)
The Infected Blood Inquiry, an independent probe into how thousands of people who were infected with HIV and hepatitis after receiving blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s, began its hearings into the school on Monday.
The case has previously been labelled the worst scandal in the history of the NHS.
In the first day of evidence involving the Lord Mayor Treloar College, Mr Webster became visibly emotional as he recalled being told of his devastating diagnosis.
He said: "I'm an angry old man now, so I don't think I'm that good at relationships. It's hard to explain. It affects everyone, not just me, but everyone out there.
"But it is difficult, for my parents, [my daughter] Amy, everyone really. It's hard because you lose all these people. Why [did it happen]?"
The inquiry heard Mr Webster and his friends became suspicious about the medicines they were receiving in the 1980s.
They noticed newspapers usually in the school library disappearing from the school when they featured stories about HIV or Aids.
Describing the moment he learned of his diagnosis, he recalled: "I was with a friend and we were asked to go up and see [one of the doctors] Dr Wassef, and we went in the room and he said, 'I've got some bad news, you're positive for HGLV-3 HIV,' and that was it really.
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"He said, 'we don't know a lot about it, the outlook's not good, we can't guarantee that you'll be alive in a couple of years.' We just stood at each other, I think we laughed at each other. It was a shock."
He added his father had previously rang the school and questioned Dr Wassef on whether his son had contracted HIV after seeing reports of infected blood in the newspapers in 1983, but the doctor did not tell him.
Mr Webster later told the inquiry that he attempted suicide between his 20s and 30s.
"Getting told you have got two years to live, even though I kept a job down, I didn't really care about things that much," he said.
The Infected Blood Inquiry first opened in 2018 and is ongoing (stock phoro)
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
"I was just out of it, I just didn't care. But then I pulled myself together and Amy was born. Now you live with it and cope with it every day."
At the end of his testimonial, Mr Webster was applauded by members of the inquiry and praised by its chairman, Sir Brian Langstaff, for his strength.
Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, said: "The pain of having been told at a young age that Gary had a death sentence hanging over him, and for 72 of his similarly-infected school friends to have since died is unimaginable.
"It is for Gary and hundreds more like him, as well as the families of those now deceased, that we will not rest until we see all contaminated blood victims properly compensated for their suffering and loss."
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Also on Monday, Jenni Richards QC read out several extracts of letters dated from the 1970s.
The letters, read aloud and shown on screen, were communications between doctors who treated the children in their hometowns, the headmaster of the school at the time, or the haemophilia centre at the school.
"What's striking is the absence of any similar or equivalent communications to parents," Ms Richards told the inquiry on Monday.
The infected blood tragedy has been described as one of the worst scandals the NHS has ever faced (stock photo)
(Image: Getty Images/EyeEm)
"It's very much a dialogue undertaken both at an early stage, as we've seen through these materials, and then throughout the boys' attendance at the school between the clinicians, with little involvement of parents that we have been unable to detect from the documents and written statements we have received."
The Lord Mayor Treloar College, which has since been rebranded as Treloar's, was established in 1908 as a school which gave disabled children a better chance to receive an education alongside any medical treatment they might need.
It was originally a boys' school but then merged with a girls' school in 1978 to become co-educational.
From 1956, boys with haemophilia began attending the school.
After it was discovered pupils had been given infected blood plasma, the NHS clinic at the school closed.
The inquiry will hear evidence from former pupils and parents affected by the infected blood saga at the school and its former headteacher this week.
A statement from Treloar's said it was "completely supportive of the campaign for truth, answers and justice by our former pupils".
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It added: "The students who attended, and were harmed, at the NHS clinic in the 1970s and 1980s are from a school community which is very close and where lifelong bonds are formed.
"This is a matter of great sorrow to us and we will continue to support the campaign for answers.
"It is our hope that the public inquiry into the use of infected blood products will finally establish the facts."
The Infected Blood Inquiry began in 2018 and its final report is expected to be published in 2022 or 2023.