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Nearly 900 children test positive for HIV in Pakistani city



Pakistani paramedics take blood samples from children for HIV testing at a state hospital in Rato Dero, Larkana district, southern Sindh province, on May 9, 2019
AFP

The allegations against Ghanghro reflected a broader trend in much of Pakistan, where lack of knowledge about the issue has contributed to double the cases since 2010.

Health officials in a southern Pakistani city say the reuse of syringe needles by pediatricians has led to nearly 900 HIV-positive children since an epidemic began earlier this year, according to the New York Times report.

Muzaffar Ghanghro, a pediatrician in Ratodero, a small town in Pakistan's Sindh Province, was arrested in May on charges of negligence and manslaughter after patients alerted investigators of his alleged unpleasant practices, Pakistani media reported.

A health and law enforcement investigation found that Ghanghro's "neglect and negligence" was responsible for an HIV outbreak in Ratodero, where about 200 adults have also tested positive for HIV since April, The New York Times reported.

Dr. Muzaffar Ghangro is seen behind bars at a local police station in Rato Dero in the Larkana district of Sindh province in the south /AFP

But health officials said the number of affected patients was likely to be higher, as less than a quarter of Ratodero's 200,000 were tested, the report said.

The allegations against Ghanghro reflected a broader trend in much of Pakistan, where lack of knowledge on the issue has contributed to duplication of cases since 2010, according to the United Nations Task Force on HIV and AIDS.

The organization said about 600,000 unqualified doctors were operating illegally in Pakistan – nearly half of them in the province where Ratodero is located.

After the outbreak was first reported, the government closed clinics with unregistered doctors and illegal blood banks. Clinics were said to reopen after media coverage dropped.

Although an initial investigation by police and health officials found Ganghro's "negligence and carelessness" as the main reason for the outbreak, officials believe it is unlikely to be the sole cause.

Visiting health professionals often see doctors in Ratodero reusing syringes, while dentists use unsterile tools for road surgery and barbers use the same razor on multiple clients, The New York Times reported.

Imran Akbar, the doctor who first drew attention to the outbreak, told The New York Times: "Unless these medical quacks, barbers and dentists are not checked, the number of incidents of HIV infection will continue to rise."


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