Infected blood: World in Action interview brings back 'quiet terror' of late husband's HIV

Helen Ford sat with Jo-Anne Cohrs to watch the 1975 World in Action interview featuring her late husband

The widow of a North East victim of the contaminated blood scandal recalled the "quiet terror" he felt after learning he had contracted HIV, as she watched his interview for a 1975 documentary.

Jo-Anne Cohrs's husband Keith Proud died in 1987 at the age of 38 - just four years after the pair married.

Mr Proud was treated for severe haemophilia with infected blood products to control his bleeding. This led to him contracting hepatitis and later HIV.

In 1975, the ITV documentary series World in Action investigated the potential dangers of contaminated blood products imported from the United States. Among those interviewed was Mr Proud.

Five decades on and ahead of the report into the Infected Blood Inquiry being published, Ms Cohrs sat down to watch her late husband in the documentary.

She told ITV Tyne Tees that this brought back the "quiet terror, panic and fear" her partner felt on learning of his HIV diagnosis.

Jo-Anne Cohrs and Keith Proud on their wedding day in 1983. Credit: Family photo

"We were married and ready to face life, and then this news came along," Ms Cohrs added.

The film makers travelled to the US, to demonstrate how donors - many from high risk groups - were paid to give blood plasma.

Mr Proud had recently been diagnosed with a form of the liver condition, hepatitis, linked to his treatment when he was featured.

He explained in the documentary: "It started off with backache, thing like that, feeling pretty rotten, a couple of days later I started to turn yellow, the whites of my eyes started to turn yellow ..."

In the film Mr Proud is asked whether he would prefer to use a product made from voluntary blood donors in Britain.

"Obviously that would be better but until that is available, we have to accept the risks," he answers.

Ms Cohrs, who now lives in Washingon on Wearside, said her late husband was "resigned" to the dilemma of balancing his need for treatment - and the risks associated with it.

Jo-Anne Cohrs watched the documentary featuring her late husband from nearly 50 years ago. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"He was stuck really because without any treatment he would have to visit the hospital ward at least once a week, three times a month with a severe bleed - uncontrollable bleed," she explained.

"He didn't have an option. He wouldn't have had a life."

In the aftermath of her husband's death Ms Cohrs wrote a book detailing how her Christian faith and community guided her through.

Entitled 'Stigma -An AIDS Widow's Story', it highlights the attitudes the couple experienced around Keith's diagnosis.Little did Ms Cohrs realise at the time that their story would form part of the biggest treatment disaster in UK history.

The report into the contaminated blood scandal found the disaster was "no accident".

Ms Cohrs said her greatest hope now is that lessons are learned from the scandal to protect the patients - like her late husband - of the future.

The final report: what has changed for Jo-Anne Cohrs?

Our Health Correspondent Helen Ford writes:

Jo-Anne Cohrs told me the report into the contaminated blood scandal gave both "relief and comfort" to those who had faced what she describes as "cold shoulders, harsh judgements and a lack of sincerity" over many years.

At last, she says, "the truth can no longer be buried or shredded".

She hopes the findings will also provide some comfort for people who are still facing the prospect of their own death, or that of a loved one, as a result of the disaster.

Ms Cohrs also senses a sea change, believing that the conclusions could change the way law makers and those in the health industry operate, to ensure a scandal of this kind cannot happen again.

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