INFECTED BLOOD INQUIRY: Librarian from Preston who contracted HIV from treatment attended 70 funerals in one year including for his brother

Suresh Vaghela
Suresh Vaghela

A former librarian who believes he contracted HIV through his haemophilia treatment has described how he attended 90 funerals of affected friends - with 70 in one year, including his brother's.

Suresh Vaghela, 55, told the Infected Blood Inquiry how he was given Factor 8 when he was a teenager and, at the time, it was thought of as a "magic potion".

But he was later told he had contracted HIV, before he also found out he was infected with Hepatitis C and CJD.

Asked about the death of his brother 20 years ago and the funerals of friends, Mr Vaghela, who grew up in Preston, Lancashire became visibly upset as he gave evidence to the hearing in Leeds.

Comforted by his wife, Rekha, he listened as counsel to the inquiry Jenni Richards QC read from his witness statement, which said: "I've been to around 90 funerals in total.

READ MORE INFECTED BLOOD INQUIRY: Chorley NHS worker 'made to feel like leper'
"There was one heavy year when I attended 70 funerals of people who were part of the haemophiliac community, one of them being my own brother's.

"I was very close to my brother, he was like my right-hand man.

"The heartache was too difficult to cope with."

Mr Vaghela said in his statement: "There came a point when I was going to so many funerals you automatically start thinking that you're going to be next.

"It is like playing Russian roulette and, after a certain amount of time, you know that the bullet is going to come for you.

"Every week, there was somebody passing away - one after the other, and then another and another."

Mr Vaghela, who now lives in Leicester, described how he had just started at university when he got a phone call from a nurse who told him he was HIV positive.

He said: "I said 'so what do I need to do as far as treatment is concerned' - 'Oh no nothing, you can't do anything, you've only got three months, so if you just get your papers in order and get your life in order then everything else will just fall into place'."

He told the inquiry: "It wasn't those words, but it was as blase as that."

Mr Vaghela said this news was a "bombshell".

He described how his infection meant he and his wife have not had children.

He told the inquiry: "So there will come a lonely time when there will be Rekha and myself and you think well yes, we didn't have much of a life."

Mr Vaghela said: "You think, well how much of a price does one have to pay for somebody else's mistake?"

He said: "There's never been a limit to the damage that this has caused.

"Whenever I think 'well it can't get worse than this', I hear stories. I hear stories that are worse than mine."

Mr Vaghela said there was a "unique bond" between those affected by the infected blood scandal.

He said the community it has created "has given itself the opportunity to question the ethics of those in positions of power and ask them who gave them the right to play God".