Man 'stunned' after Birmingham Children's Hospital kept HIV infection secret

12 June 2019, 14:01 | Updated: 12 June 2019, 14:03

A haemophiliac who contracted HIV when he was a teenager said he was "absolutely stunned" when he found out doctors had kept his infection a secret when he was young.

Martin Beard, from Burton-on-Trent, told the Infected Blood Inquiry how it was not until 2006 that he first saw a 1985 letter between hospitals which said: "We note that he is HTLV 3 antibody positive (HIV), but is not aware of this and that you do not wish this to be divulged to him. We shall make every effort to comply with your wishes."

Asked how he felt when he first saw this letter more than 20 years later, he told the inquiry: "Stunned, absolutely stunned."

Mr Beard, now 50, said it appeared that he had been tested for HIV without his knowledge in 1983, when he was 14.

He said he had been treated at Birmingham Children's Hospital for years "but they never had the decency to tell me about this".

He also described the blunt manner in which he did find out about his HIV infection in 1986, after his care had been transferred to north Staffordshire.

He recalled how he was walking into a doctor's room from a waiting area and was given the news without any introduction or welcome.

Mr Beard told the inquiry: "He doesn't say anything. All he says is, 'Hello, I see you're HIV positive'."

He said: "I just batted it away and said, 'Oh well, that's life' because I didn't really understand the full implications of it.

"And he looks at me and says, 'Well, that's your life for the next two years'.

"I said, 'What do you mean by that' and he says, 'You've got about two years to live'."

Mr Beard said: "That's when it hit me and I can't really remember the rest of the conversation I had with that man that day."

He explained some of the prejudice he faced over the years, including an incident in a Derbyshire pub when he was told "you get out" and was left to feel "numb, empty, worthless".

He also recalled how he lost a job after a manager told him: "The workforce is not happy. Either you go or they go. And I was forced out."

Concluding his evidence, Mr Beard told the inquiry: "People are accountable. I am not going to sit here and bash doctors, because I don't believe that all doctors go into the profession to hurt people. But this goes higher up than that. There are MPs that are accountable and they should be made to answer and I believe now is the time for justice."

The inquest, being held in Leeds, will continue this week.