Getting blood for a stone is child’s play compared with what thousands of people with hemophilia (PWHs) face in getting reparations from the industry they accuse of knowingly infecting them with HIV. Under a legal settlement, four drug companies established a $640 million fund for victims of their blood products between 1978 and 1985. Each plaintiff or plaintiff’s survivor is owed $100,000. Why the yearlong holdup? Paperwork.
The deal is stalled due to Medicaid officials. When Uncle Sam ordered the states to reimburse Medicaid for its payout for some PWHs’ HIV treatments before the claimants get their payback, federal judge John Grady said the money should come from the drug giants. But to figure out how much Medicaid is owed, the companies had to survey the 6,200 claimants. As POZ went to press, Judge Grady, stating that “time is of the essence,” ordered the parties to work out an agreement by May 1 for claimants who never got government aid, and for all others by year’s end.
But waiting even that long is a luxury. “We’re losing up to 40 claimants a month. Close to 4,000 are now dead,” said Dana Kuhn of the Committee of Ten Thousand (COTT), an advocacy group for the PWHs who got HIV in the early ‘80s.”We filed the class-action suit three years ago. The community is very frustrated at this point. It’s like the dangling carrot. The money’s been allocated but people can’t get their hands on it because of technicalities.” According to Kuhn, for each day of delay, the blood industry makes about $250,000 in interest on the settlement money.