HIV infects over 400 Pakistani children; doctor accused

Dr. Muzaffar Ghangharo, a Pakistani local pediatrician alleged to have been responsible for the HIV outbreak, sits behind bars at a police station in Ratodero, Pakistan. Ghangharo was arrested on April 30 on charges of infecting hundreds of patients, mostly children at the facility with HIV, for avenging him being affected by HIV, a charge he denied. File Photo by Waqar Hussain/EPA-EFE

May 21 (UPI) — More 400 children have been diagnosed with HIV in a Pakistani town as several families accuse a local doctor of spreading the virus through tainted syringes.

More than 607 people – – 75 percent of them children — have been diagnosed with HIV in the Sindh province’s Larkana in the past past month after many rushed to a government hospital to get tested as word spread of an outbreak.

The first sign of the outbreak occurred in February when parents from the town of Ratodero, a subdivision in Larkana province, took their children to a doctor with a fever that seemed to be lasting longer than normal. The doctor sent their blood away for testing, which turned out HIV-positive.

Police have arrested the town’s child specialist, Muzaffar Ghangharo, who has AIDS, with at least 10 families accusing him of infecting their children through tainted syringes.

Ghangharo was to appear in court Tuesday.

In statement to police, Ghangaro said “he didn’t do anything intentionally,” officer Sartaj Jhagirini said, but “four kids have died and their parents have blamed the doctor for killing them.”

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Another HIV outbreak hit the same province a few years ago, which resulted in 1,521 people diagnosed, most men linked to transgender prostitutes.

Dr. Asad Memon, head of the Sindh AIDS Control Program in Larkana, said he believes the 2016 outbreak could be indirectly related to the current outbreak.

“I think the virus was being carried by members of the high-risk group (transgender and female prostitutes) and then lax practices by local quacks caused it to infect other patients,” he told the BBC.

Dr. Fatima Mir, who specializes in AIDS among children, said that quack doctors were most likely tied to the HIV outbreak in children in 2016.

“There are three ways a child may be infected,” Mir said. “It’s either through a lactating mother who carries the virus, through blood transfusion, or through an infected surgical instrument or a syringe.”

In the cases she handles, she said that the mothers tested negative and only of few of the children had blood transfusions, so the only remaining cause was reusing infected syringes.

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