More than 500 people have tested positive for HIV in southern Pakistan in an outbreak that local officials have been blamed for being a rogue paediatrician.
Nearly 14,000 people have been screened in the district outside Larkana, where the sudden increase in HIV incidence Dr. Sikandar Memon, regional coordinator of the Aids Control Program, was first detected.
Of those testing positive, 410 are children, Dr Memon told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn . He said that another 29 patients tested positive in the latest round of blood screening on Wednesday in the main hospital in Rato Dero, 25km outside Larkana, seen as the center of the epidemic.
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A doctor has been charged with infecting his patients through repeated use of a single contaminated syringe in custody since the outbreak was first reported in late April. Dr. Muzaffar Ghangharo, who officials said he was living with HIV, has been charged but denies the allegations.
Authorities also do not exclude the possibility that the outbreak is the result of a gross, widespread negligence in a region that has a high prevalence of shady medical practices.
UNAIDS said that international partner organizations had joined local teams to try and contain and investigate the outbreak. In a statement, it was said there were concerns that about 600,000 unqualified doctors are unlawfully operating in Pakistan, with 270,000 of them in Sindh province where Larkana is located.
The outbreak also draws attention to the lack of awareness and education on HIV among the Mostly poor communities in this part of Sindh.
Resources have been stretched to the limit by parents demanding screening for their children and drugs for those testing positive. "They are coming by the dozens," said a doctor at a makeshift clinic set up to try and cope with the situation.
"We are helpless. I have other children and I'm afraid they could catch the disease, "said mother to the mother, whose daughter recently tested positive for HIV.
" [Please] send some medicines for our children so they can be cured. If not, all of our children will die, right?
The UN says Pakistan now has the second-fastest growing rate of HIV in Asia, with only about 20,000 new infections in 2017.
Dr. Maria Elena G Filio Borromeo, UNAIDS 'country director for Pakistan and Afghanistan, visited Larkana to assess the response to the outbreak of this weak.
She questioned why the first reports of a spike in HIV cases came from local media and not established official monitoring processes. 19659021] Dr. Borromeo said that the children of the same age as two-month olds were affected by the outbreak and that they would deal with the consequences for the rest of their lives. The UN Global Fund will stop paying for antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Pakistan from December
Such outbreaks will continue as long as "the practice of re-using needles and unsafe injections and blood transfusion is common throughout the country," she told The News Pakistan "The UN is ready to bring experts from abroad and to introduce best practices … but local authorities [must] to prepare mid-term and long-term strategies to prevent such outbreaks in the future," she said.