Clinton AIDS Trail

Thanks to Brian Redman of Conspiracy Nation for passing on this story.

Saturday 12 September 1998

RCMP tracks HIV-tainted prison blood

Criminal probe traces trail of plasma from Arkansas inmates Mark Kennedy The Ottawa Citizen The RCMP's criminal investigation into the tainted-blood affair will examine how HIV-contaminated plasma was collected from Arkansas prison inmates and shipped to Canada by a U.S. firm with links to President Bill Clinton. "The RCMP is looking at all aspects of the blood distribution system," Cpl. Gilles Moreau said yesterday. "It's one of the many aspects." Meanwhile, tainted-blood victims angrily said the prison blood-collection scheme was a scandal on its own that proved the federal government neglected its regulatory duties to keep the blood supply pure. They said the story lends credence to their continuing calls for the federal and provincial governments to compensate all tainted-blood victims, no matter when they were infected. Durhane Wong-Rieger, past president of the Canadian Hemophilia Society, said federal regulators were supposed to keep an eye on imported blood products and ensure they were not high risk. "They are responsible for this," she said of the federal government. "They are liable." The tainted plasma -- used to create special blood products for hemophiliacs -- is believed to have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. As well, it's likely the prisoners' blood was contaminated with hepatitis C. Mr. Clinton was governor of Arkansas when the Canadian blood supply was contaminated in the mid-'80s. He was generally familiar with the operations of now-defunct Health Management Associates, the Arkansas firm that was given a contract by Mr. Clinton's state administration to provide medical care to prisoners. In the process, HMA was also permitted by the state to collect prisoners' blood and sell it elsewhere. Mr. Clinton was a friend of HMA president Leonard Dunn, who boasted of the friendship in 1986 to Arkansas police who conducted a probe of the firm following allegations it was providing poor medical care to inmates. In the early 1980s, U.S. companies that fractionate blood products had stopped buying prison blood because it was widely understood that since many prisoners practised unsafe sex or were intravenous drug users, they posed a high risk of carrying the AIDS virus. However, HMA found a willing buyer in Continental Pharma, a Montreal blood broker, which in turn sold the plasma to Toronto-based blood fractionator Connaught Laboratories. Connaught apparently didn't realize the plasma had come from prisoners. Details of HMA's links to Mr. Clinton were reported Thursday after the Citizen obtained copies of internal reports from the Arkansas State Police dating back to the mid-'80s. Cpl. Moreau, spokesman for the special task force of Mounties investigating the blood scandal, cautiously responded to queries yesterday about the investigators' work. He said that, as a matter of policy, the RCMP cannot reveal specifics about what is being investigated because that might jeopardize the investigation. However, Cpl. Moreau did note that Mr. Justice Horace Krever chronicled -- without mentioning Mr. Clinton -- what he knew about the prison-blood collection. The Mounties began their criminal investigation last February and established a toll-free number (1-888-530-1111) that Canadians can call with tips. So far, the RCMP investigators have interviewed more than 500 people and have travelled to the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. Here at home, they have interviewed people in every province. Some are victims and others are so-called "witnesses" who were involved in the blood system -- either in the Red Cross or in governments --when it went awry. "I can assure you that we are doing everything we can -- and that is in our power -- to get to the bottom of the blood distribution system and to look at it from the criminal aspect," said Moreau. The contaminated plasma collected by HMA in the early '80s came from Cummins prison in Grady, Arkansas. As well, HMA bought prisoners' plasma from four Louisiana prisons and sent it to the Montreal blood broker, which sold it to Connaught Laboratories. Connaught fractionated it into blood products for use by hemophiliacs.