Teikyo two in Aids scandal, Tokyo

March 1, 1996

Vice president Takeshi Abe of private Teikyo University, Japan, which has a branch campus at Durham and has supported two colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, has resigned after being accused of murder. It is alleged that he failed to prevent the infection of haemophiliacs with blood products contaminated by the HIV virus and playing a leading role in a subsequent cover-up.

Atsuaki Gunji, now a professor of hygiene at Tokyo University, has also been charged in connection with the scandal. Professor Gunji, from 1982 to 1984 head of the biologics and antibodies division of the ministry of health and welfare, faces accusations of perjury for stating before the Tokyo District Court in 1993 that he did not know about the HIV risks of unheated blood products.

Professor Abe, aged 79, is a expert on haemophilia, and headed an Aids research team established by the ministry in 1983. A haemophiliac treated by Abe, who died of Aids at Teikyo University hospital in July 1983, was only recognised by the ministry as Japan's first Aids fatality two years later, when approval was granted by the ministry to use heat-sterilised blood products. In 1983 two American experts confirmed in the presence of Abe and Gunji that Aids was the cause of death. Abe decided not to make this public.

The mother of another haemophiliac patient of Abe's, who also died of Aids, has filed a murder complaint with Tokyo prosecutors, alleging that Abe knew of the risk of contracting HIV, but still gave unheated blood transfusions to her son. Until recently the ministry refused to admit that it knew of a risk in 1983 but had approved the use of unsafe blood until 1985.

This year a battered dossier was "found" in ministry archives. Its contents, including a file kept by Gunji, suggested that while Abe's study committee already knew of the Aids risks, and at Gunji's request considered emergency import of heated blood coagulants from America, it still recommended in March 1984 the use of unheated blood coagulants. The ministry accepted this.

Teikyo University has given generously to Wadham College, Oxford, and to St Edmund's College, Cambridge, and has spent Pounds 7 million on its Durham campus.

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