About 900 children from a Pakistani city have tested positive for HIV after a fraud pediatrician allegedly reused infected syringes.
Not only children but also nearly 200 adults were tested positive for the virus since the Ratodero epidemic in April.
However, health officials fear the real number of the affected people could be far higher.
This outbreak was initially blamed on one of the cheapest pediatricians in the small city, Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro. After his patients accused him of frequently reusing syringes on their children, he was arrested and charged with negligence and manslaughter.
One of the affected children’s fathers, Imtiaz Jalbani, told The New York Times that Dr. Ghanghro searched through his bin for an old needle to use on his six-year-old son. The poor kid, one of six, was later diagnosed as HIV-positive. The mischief doctor responded that the father was too poor to afford paying for a new needle.
Since this incident, four of Mr. Jalbani’s children have tested positive for the virus. Sadly, two of them, the youngest ones, died.
Another parent of three HIV-positive children that contracted the disease after being treated by Dr. Ganghro said that he applied the same drip on 50 children without changing the needle.
The rogue doctor’s negligence and carelessness were pointed out as the prime reason for the outbreak.
However, officials believe he is not the only cause of the HIV epidemic. According to The New York Times, health workers who visit Ratodero often witness doctors reusing syringes, dentists working with unsterilized tools, and barbers using the same razor on different customers.
Imran Akbar Arbani, the doctor who first identified the wave of sick children as an outbreak of HIV, said:
“Unless these quack doctors, barbers ,and dentists are not checked, the number of incidents of HIV infection will continue going up.”
Unfortunately, the majority of the local population isn’t aware of the risks and the ways they could be affected. Some even believe that they could be contracted by only touching an HIV-positive person. This has led to the isolation of some of the hundreds known contracted children from their peers. There are even cases of relatives so scared they avoid any kind of physical contact with the unfortunate kids.
The lack of literacy is common among suchlike impoverished communities.
Since 2010, cases of HIV in Pakistan have nearly doubled to 160,000, according to the United Nations’ taskforce on HIV and Aids. There are about 600,000 unqualified doctors thought to be unlawfully operating in the country. 270,000 of them are in Sindh province, where Ratodero is located.
The response of the government of Pakistan to this crisis was shutting down clinics with unregistered doctors and illegal blood banks. As a result, it emerged that indeed many had been reusing syringes. However, after the media attention decreased, some of the clinics were re-opened.