Nearly 900 children in a small Pakistani city have been infected with HIV — and local officials say a single pediatrician is at least partly to blame, for reusing syringes on multiple patients, according to a new report.
Since April, about 1,100 citizens in the city of Ratodero have tested positive for the virus, which can lead to AIDS, the New York Times reported. Almost 900 of them are younger than 12.
Investigators concluded that many of the infected children had gone to the same pediatrician, Muzaffar Ghangro, who served the city’s poorest families.
Ghangro has been arrested and charged with negligence, manslaughter and causing unintentional harm, the Times reported.
But Ghangro told the paper he is innocent and never reused syringes.
Local TV reporter Gulbahar Shaikh, who broke the news of the outbreak, found out that his 2-year-old daughter, who went to the same doctor, also had the virus.
He told the Times his daughter, who is responding well to treatment, has become an outcast in the community.
“My wife and I, fortunately, we are literate,” Shaikh told the paper. “We hug and love our daughter. But our relatives stopped touching her and are now reluctant to visit us.”
Ghangro treated all six children of laborer Imtiaz Jalbani, four of whom contracted the virus, he told the Times. His two youngest, only 14 months and 3 years old, died.
He told the paper the doctor snapped at him and said he was using an old syringe because Jalbani couldn’t afford a new one.
“He said, ‘If you don’t want my treatment, go to another doctor,’” Jalbani told the paper. “My wife and I had to starve ourselves to pay for the medicine.”
Now health officials say it’s likely Ghangro’s reused needles weren’t the only source of the epidemic. Barbers and roadside dentists in the region also reuse their tools, Dr. Imran Akbar Arbani, who practices in the area, told the Times.
“Unless these quack doctors, barbers and dentists are not checked, the number of incidents of HIV infection will continue going up,” he said.