Just a few decades ago, hemophilia did not just mean you had a bleeding disorder. It also meant that you were at high risk of being infected with blood-borne illnesses. Mark Antell knows this well. He received Hepatitis C through a blood transfusion sometime in the 60s or 70s. And the AIDS crisis of the 80s changed his life.
He was happily married with three children, and then everything changed. “All of a sudden, we were in a situation,” he says. “There was something very horrible out there.” Mark did catch the virus, and his life came crashing down. “I found that a lot of people I thought were friends really weren’t… It ruined my marriage. I know my wife couldn’t stand the being bonded to someone who was potentially some sort of vector for disease.”
Today, blood screening and new types of treatment means that hemophilia treatment is safer than ever before. But many have to live with the reminders of an earlier time. “Almost certainly the majority of us who are older than 30 have got Hepatitis C,” says Mark. He has banded together with others in the hemophilia community to petition the FDA to open up experimental treatments to the hemophilia community. There is urgency in his voice, because he and the others of his generation are beginning to feel the results of decades of illness. “If we wait as we have waited for another half-decade a whole lot of us are going to be gone,” he says.