Tainted is usually a word used to describe something bad or terrible, but to me it also resembles something inspiring.
Two weekends ago I saw a fearfully touching reading of a play called Tainted about a family who lived through the troubling times of the Tainted Blood Crisis that took off in the 1980s. This crisis deeply affected the lives of hemophiliacs across Canada.
What are hemophiliacs you ask? Hemophiliacs are individuals (mainly males) whose bodies are missing and/or cannot produce the protein Factor XIII in their blood that allows it to clot, meaning that yes, in severe circumstances they could bleed to death. Though there is no cure, there is a way to temporarily restore these Factor VIII levels via direct infusions into the blood. Sounds like a solid fix, right? But what if this medicine was once tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C? What if that one thing that enabled you to live a safe and normal everyday life was the thing that killed you? What if the Canadian Red Cross knew about this and did nothing but stand by and watch innocent victims get sick, die, and during those early and often hateful days, get ridiculed for contracting the “gay disease”. What if I told you this appeared to be true.
In the 1980s, many people who’d had blood transfusions or used medical blood products were mysteriously getting sick. It seemed that by the time proper testing took place around 2,000 were infected with HIV and up to 60,000 contracted Hepatitis C. What’s worse is that there was major denial of infected products and none were ever recalled. No official statement was made until all of the infected products were distributed and used. It wasn’t until 2001 the Canadian Red Cross was found guilty of negligence for failing to screen blood donors effectively for HIV infection and stripped of its control over the blood program. To this day many are angered with the 2007 ruling that found there was “no crime” in the actions of the four doctors and a US medical company in relation to this disasters turn of events. Many believe this crisis is responsible for nearly wiping out an entire generation of hemophiliacs.
Similar tragedies have occurred in a few other areas of the world such as Japan, Iraq, Iran, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and the US. France is currently in the middle of their public inquiry to find out exactly how this happened and who’s to blame. The playwright behind Tainted has done a full production of the play in Toronto and is currently raising $5000 to take the reading to the UK and spread awareness.
For me, this play hit close to home. My brother has severe hemophilia. Though he himself was not directly affected by this crisis I know a few people who have HIV because of it today and the thought that it could happen again is frightening. This play deeply touched many hearts, including mine, and unveils so many of the awful and true stories of this tragedy. I believe it is such an impactful way of spreading awareness that I personally want to help this cause.
Here at Spring we like to do good things. For my birthday, I will be taking my annual “Spring Do Something Good On Your Birthday, Get the Day Off Day™” to donate blood, as Factor VIII is created from the plasma of donated blood. And, instead of my usual birthday-spree I will be donating $100 to GromKat Productions and the Moyo Theatre.
I suggested to the playwright that she have a reading recorded so it can be distributed and shared as a podcast. A few days ago, Kat Lanteigne (the playwright) emailed me and told me she has reached out to her CBC friends to see if it’s a possible endeavor. You can bet I’ll be sharing this recording if and when it becomes available, as I believe it is truly a valuable, tear-jerking, eye-opening 90 minutes worth hearing.
For more information on the play visit
For information on how to donate
To learn more about Hemophilia and the Canadian Hemophilia Society’s BC Chapter visit