HISTORICAL TIMELINE

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 July 1981: First cluster of AIDS identified among homosexuals in N.Y. City and California.

March 1982: Canada Diseases Weekly Report publishes first Canadian (homosexual) case of AIDS.

July 1982: AIDS identified in U.S. among hemophiliacs. *Patients T-cells are reported to be out of balance.

December 1982: Montreal Immunologist, Dr. Christos Tsoukas, publishes Canadian study showing a substantial proportion of asymptomatic hemophiliacs have abnormal T-cell ratios.

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March 1983: U.S. distribution of pamphlets on AIDS to donors at blood and plasma centres begins. *Distribution of pamphlets with AIDS symptoms will not begin in Canada for 14 months.

March 1983: Canadian Red Cross says there is “no evidence” of AIDS transmission through blood, but asks donors in risk groups to voluntarily exclude themselves.

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May 1983: Pasteur Institute in Paris isolates a new retrovirus, lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV), believed to cause AIDS.

June 1983: Canadian Diseases Weekly Report publishes first official Canadian Hemophiliac AIDS case.

September 1983: Quebec baby dies of AIDS after blood transfusion.

Jan 1984: First published report of a U.S. hemophiliac’s wife contracting AIDS.

April 1984: Dr. Gallo, at U.S. National Cancer Institute isolates the retrovirus (HTLV-III) responsible for AIDS. *It is later discovered to be the same specimen as France’s LAV.

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September 1984: U.S. Blood banks begin widespread clinical trails using ELISA (HIV antibody test).

September 1984: U.S. Centre for Disease Control reports 80 cases of transfusion AIDS and 52 hemophiliacs with AIDS—a quadrupling of confirmed U.S. cases in eight months.

October 1984: U.S. Centre for Disease Control concludes that heat-treating factor concentrates can inactivate HIV.

November 1984: Canadian Bureau of Biologics (BoB) directs the Canadian Red Cross to switch to heat-treated concentrates as soon as possible. *Full conversion will not happen for 8 months.

December 1984: New England Journal of Medicine publishes preliminary results by Dr. Christos Tsoukas, saying 56% of concentrate-using hemophiliacs in his Canadian study have HIV antibodies.

March 1985: U.S. FDA licenses first HIV antibody test kit. Within hours kits are delivered to more than 2,300 U.S. blood banks. *Canadian Red Cross does not commence nationwide testing for 8 months.

April 1985: San Francisco blood bank publishes results of first month of testing: 1 in 440 units of volunteer donations were infected, even after rigorous screening.  The American Red Cross reports nation-wide results: 1 in 500 donors are testing positive.

April 1985: Canadian BoB approves first HIV antibody test kit for sale in Canada.

May 1985: Canadian Red Cross admits for the first time, that a Canadian patient has died of AIDS contracted through a blood transfusion.

July 1, 1985: Heat-treated concentrates distributed to all users in Canada now.

July 1985: The U.S. FDA recommends blood and plasma centres conduct look-backs.

Aug 1985: Ryan White, 13-year-old U.S. hemophiliac, barred from school due to AIDS.

Aug 1985: The Medical Post calls for an inquiry into the delay in HIV testing in Canada.

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February 1986: U.S. FDA recommends all blood donations be surrogate-tested for Non-A Non-B Hepatitis (Hepatitis C).

April 1986: New England Journal of Medicine reports study results that predict surrogate testing will reduce post-transfusion hepatitis by 43%.

May 1986: A letter in The Lancet (UK medical journal) reports that dry heat-treatment of factor concentrates at 60 degrees Celsius may not effectively inactivate HIV. *Canada imports factor concentrates from one company (Armour) that uses this heating process.

June 1986: The advisory sub-committee to the Canadian Blood Committee (Canadian Health Ministers) questions the scientific validity of surrogate testing.

June 1986: Armour Pharmaceuticals informs Canadian officials that some European hemophiliacs have become HIV infected, after using Armour heat-treated concentrates made from unscreened plasma. They voluntarily withdraw 206 lots and exchange all unscreened product for screened.

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October 1986: All Armour heat-treated factor concentrates are withdrawn in the United Kingdom following cases of U.K. Hemophiliacs contracting AIDS after using product.

October 1986: U.S. FDA concludes that Armour’s product safety data is adequate, so only recalls unscreened factor concentrates. In light of this, Canadian BoB rules that an “Armour withdrawal in Canada is not warranted”.

July 1987: Canadian Red Cross begins limited look-back program.

September 1987: The 1st AIDS Candlelight Memorial is organised in Vancouver.

October 1987: Canadian blood system rocked by news that 6 hemophiliacs in BC and 1 in Alberta have been infected with HIV through Armour heat-treated factor concentrates.

December 1987: The BoB directs that all Canadian Heat-treated factor concentrates be replaced with Wet heat-treated (proven to be more effective at inactivating HIV) as soon as possible.

July 1988: All factor concentrates distributed in Canada are now wet heat-treated.

March 1989: Montreal hemophiliac announces 2 lawsuits for more than 2 million in damages. He tells the press he will drop his lawsuits if authorities will apologize and provide him with a modest disability pension.

May 1989: HCV, the virus responsible for Non-A Non-B Hepatitis (Hep C) is discovered.

June 1989: Prime Minister, Mulroney, makes his first public statement about AIDS.

December 1989: Federal government announces Extraordinary Assistance Plan (EAP) for hemophiliacs and blood-transfused people infected with HIV. *Canada’s Federal Health Minister invited the Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers to contribute to a bigger plan, but they unanimously refused.

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May 1990: Canadian Red Cross implements HCV-antibody (Hep C) testing.

October 1991: Formal charges sworn against 3 blood system administrators in France.

October 1992: France convicts 3 in case of HIV tainted Blood.

April 1993: Most tainted blood victims receive their last cheques under Federal EAP.

May 1993: Nova Scotia Health Minister makes Provincial offer of compensation to the 16 victims in his province. 

May 1993: The House of Commons sub-committee on Health issues calls for a judicial inquiry on tainted blood.  They urge the provinces to reconsider their decision not to compensate, and suggest measures to contact Canadians who might have unknowingly been infected.

June 1993: Toronto Hospital for Sick Children announces preliminary result of its trace back program: 17 of 1700 cardiac patients tested positive for HIV.

September 1993: Bowing to pressure, the Health Ministers from the Provinces and Territories announce a compensation plan (Multi Provincial Territorial Assistance Plan) for HIV infected victims of Tainted blood.

October 1993: The federal government, by order-in-council, authorizes the creation of a Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada. Justice Horace Krever is appointed commissioner.

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December 1995: Krever’s Commission Counsel close hearings. They send sends notices to the Canadian Red Cross, the federal and provincial governments, pharmaceutical companies and individuals, warning that they could be named for misconduct.

June 1996: Canadian Red Cross, federal government, most provinces and four pharmaceutical companies take Krever to Federal Court to prevent him from laying blame. Krever wins when court rules 14 Red Cross and three federal officials are open to blame.

January 1997: The Federal Court of Appeal dismisses appellants’ challenge. Canadian Red Cross and others appeal to the Supreme Court.

September 1997: Supreme Court rules the Krever inquiry can assign blame, but warns, “Efforts should be made to avoid language that is so equivocal that it appears to be a finding of civil or criminal liability.”

November 1997: Justice Horace Krever releases his voluminous report on the tainted-blood scandal.

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March 1998: Provincial and Federal health ministers announce Compensation for tainted blood victims infected with Hepatitis C between 1986 and 1990.

September 1998: Canadian Red Cross gets out of the blood business, transferring assets to the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Hema-Quebec.

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April 2005: The House of Commons unanimously passes a Conservative motion to extend compensation to another 5,000 Canadians who were excluded from the 1998 Hepatitis C compensation package.

May 2005: The Canadian Red Cross is fined $5,000 for its role in the tainted blood scandal. The organization agrees to plead guilty to distributing a contaminated drug, a violation of the Food and Drug Regulation Act. The $5,000 fine is the maximum penalty for the charge. Six criminal charges against the Red Cross are dropped. The organization also agrees to give $1.5 million to the University of Ottawa for a research endowment fund and a scholarship fund.

July 2005: The lawyer for former Canadian Red Cross director Dr. Roger Perrault, says his client is too sick to stand trial and asks a Toronto court to drop criminal charges against him. The 68-year-old has had two heart attacks and open-heart surgery. His lawyer argues that the stress of a trial could kill him.

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February 2006: Criminal trial begins in Toronto. Dr. Perrault of the Canadian Red Cross, Dr. Boucher and Dr. Furesz of the BoB, and Dr. Michael Rodell of Armour Pharmaceutical Co face charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and criminal nuisance endangering the public.

July 2006: Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces a compensation package for 5,500 people who contracted Hepatitis C before 1986 and after 1990. These self-described “forgotten victims” were excluded from previous tainted blood compensation agreements.

October 2007: Justice Mary Lou Benotto acquits the 4 doctors and Armour of criminal charges. Benotto calls the events “tragic, but to assign blame where none exists would compound the tragedy.”

 

This timeline is based on historical events and information from The Gift of Death: Confronting Canada’s Tainted-Blood Tragedy by Andre Picard, Bad Blood: The Tragedy of the Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal by Vic Parsons, the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, and other publicly available sources.