HIV-infected haemophiliacs offered up to $1m compensation

HAEMOPHILIACS infected with HIV through contaminated blood products will be offered ex-gratia payments of up to $1 million each, it was revealed yesterday.

The Council for the AIDS Trust Fund - launched last week to advise the Government on how to spend $350 million on AIDS-related programmes - announced levels of compensation for five categories of victims.

The council - set up after a Sunday Morning Post campaign - has put aside $100 million for the compensation scheme.

Married victims with dependent children will receive $1 million each while those married without dependent youngsters will be eligible for $750,000.

Unmarried victims will get $600,000, infected spouses and children will receive $300,000 each and the family of a victim who has died will be offered $300,000.

The council hopes to give final approval for payments at its next meeting on May 17.

A spokesman for the Hongkong Haemophiliacs Association said some members believed payments were too low.

''They suspect the Government may not have taken inflation into account,'' he said.

Members of the association will meet this week to discuss the offer and consider a formal response, he added.

The Government estimates 61 haemophiliacs, contaminated before screening was introduced in August 1985 for HIV-infected blood products, are eligible for compensation.

But the number of claimants could rise depending on payments to infected spouses and children.

The chairman of the six-member council, Professor David Todd, encouraged HIV-infected haemophiliacs not known to the Government to contact the Health and Welfare Branch and apply for an ex-gratia payment.

Compensation would also be considered for HIV-infected haemophiliacs contaminated after 1985, he said.

About one third of claimants are expected to be eligible for the $1 million payout, while teenagers will make up the largest category.

Professor Todd said the compensation scheme was simpler and slightly more generous than its British counterpart.

''After examining payment schemes in the UK, Australia, Japan and one or two other countries we felt the UK was most generous and we tried to be even more generous,'' he said.

The highest payment under the British scheme is GBP80,500 (about HK$949,000) for married victims with dependent children.

Six haemophiliacs have died in Hongkong after becoming HIV-infected and another three have developed full blown AIDS.

The Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare, Mr Victor Ng Hon-wing, will begin contacting HIV-infected haemophiliacs this week.

All information will be confidential.