As many as 900 children have been tested positive for HIV in the Pakistani city of Ratodero in Larkana district of Sindh province.
Gulbahar Shaikh, a local journalist had reported the outbreak of HIV epidemic to residents of the city in April, as per a New York Times report. Their report states that the number of HIV infected people has risen to over a 1,000 in the past five months, and the city’s doctors are still struggling to cope with the situation.
The reason behind the dramatic outbreak was singled out to be Muzaffar Ghanghro who used old and trashed syringes on patients. However, health officials have retracted their statement saying the problem may have more reasons.
Being the only paediatrician charging Rs 14 per visit, most parents from Ratodero took their children to him for medical diagnosis.
In a region that is home to some of Pakistan’s most financially deprived communities with high illiteracy rates, Ghanghro’s cheap medical services were sought after. However, when one resident raised an alarm over Ghanghro using a trashed syringe on his son, he was shouted at and told that he was too poor to pay for a new one.
“He said, ‘If you don’t want my treatment, go to another doctor.” Mr Jalbani, a labourer, told The New York Times. “My wife and I had to starve ourselves to pay for the medicine,” he added.
Ghanghro was arrested and charged by the police with negligence, manslaughter and for causing unintentional harm. But he has not yet been convicted and continues to work at a public hospital in the city.
The Pakistan government has reportedly shut down clinics with unregistered blood banks and doctors, and found that many have been reusing syringes, The Wire reported. There are also many barbers and dentists in the area who don’t follow hygienic practices, which could have also resulted in the rapid spread of the virus. The high rate of illiteracy in the region has led to a lack of awareness about HIV. People here are shunning the infected children due to the misconception that the virus may spread by touch.
In May, one man strangled his HIV positive wife to death, and in June, residents of a town discovered their neighbour tied to a tree after she had tested positive for the virus. The family said they had bound her to prevent her from spreading the virus to the rest of the town.
Things aren’t very bright in India as well. A 2018 RTI application brought revealed that over 500 patients in Maharashtra alone had been infected with HIV via septic needles.
In 2018, a quack in Uttar Pradesh was accused of infecting 46 people with the deadly virus by reusing syringes.
India may also be on the verge of an HIV outbreak as the government continues to ignore alarming reports about the spike in HIV cases. In 2016, a series of RTI requests had revealed that 14,474 cases of HIV through blood transfusion had been reported in India since 2009. It had also told that the Indian government was yet to order a study or inquiry into this medical crisis that puts millions of lives at risk.
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