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ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York law now allows hemophiliacs who took contaminated blood-clotting products through which they contracted the HIV virus that causes AIDS to sue the products' manufacturers.

Since the early 1980s, thousands of hemophiliacs have contracted the human immuno-deficiency virus and AIDS through tainted blood-clotting products.

Some of the blood collected to make these products contained HIV until the products were purified of the virus in the mid-1980s.

Earlier this year, a settlement ended a class-action suit against the manufacturers (BI, May 12). Under the terms of the settlement, each of the nearly 6,000 class members will receive $100,000. But hundreds of class members opted out in order to pursue individual suits.

About 75 New York residents who opted out of the settlement now can pursue their suits under the new law, signed Dec. 1 by Gov. George E. Pataki.

Under the new law, people infected with HIV or their survivors have until Dec. 1, 1999, to file a suit.

Without the law, these claims would have been dismissed under the old New York statute of limitations.

In a written statement, Gov. Pataki said the law is needed to "ensure that the innocent victims of this terrible tragedy have their day in court."

The statement also says that many of the hemophiliacs did not originally file suits because they feared the "publicity and stigma" a suit could bring.

A spokesman for the products' manufacturers said that despite the settlement, the manufacturers maintain they are not liable for anyone's infection and will defend themselves against any new suits.