A new documentary film recently screened at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, looks at an Arkansas prison and its part in the international proliferation of blood-borne viruses. “Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal,” reveals how prison inmates, known to have HIV and hepatitis, were paid for donating their blood. Much of the contaminated blood was then pooled by pharmaceutical companies to manufacture blood products such as factor VIII concentrate, for the treatment of hemophilia. Thousands of people in the U.S. and abroad were eventually infected with HIV and hepatitis in the 1980s and many have since died.
The film focuses specifically on the tainted blood from Arkansas and how, through the alleged complicity of senior prison employees, government officials and factor manufacturers, thousands of people were infected with deadly viruses. Although the contaminated blood was exported around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, the film centers on victims in Scotland, including Andy Gunn, a 30-year old with hemophilia, HIV and hepatitis C. Gunn is one of several plaintiffs in a global lawsuit being brought against the drug companies who produced and distributed the products that infected people worldwide. “The film shows again that we need a full inquiry into why this was allowed to happen,” said Gunn. He added, “It’s a murderous cover-up. They effectively murdered thousands of haemophiliacs and got away with it.”
The film was directed by Kelly Duda, an Arkansas native with a bachelor’s degree in both Film Studies and Political Science from California State University - San José. The film, which took more than five years to produce, is Duda’s first feature-length documentary.
Source: The Sunday Herald, October 30, 2005