More than 500 people have tested positive for HIV in southern Pakistan in an outbreak that local officials have blamed on a villain pediatrician.
Nearly 14,000 individuals have now been screened in the district outside Larkana where the sudden rise in HIV incidence was first discovered, said Dr. Sikandar Memon, regional coordinator of the Aids Control Program.
Of those who test positive, 410 are children, Dr. Memon told Pakistani newspaper Dawn . He said another 29 patients were tested positive in the latest blood test on Wednesday at the main hospital in Rato Dero, 25 km outside Larkana, seen as the center of the epidemic.
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A doctor accused of infecting his patients by repeated use of a single contaminated syringe remains in storage after the outbreak was first reported in late April. Dr Muzaffar Ghangharo, who officials say he lives with HIV himself, has been charged, but denies claims.
The authorities also do not rule out the possibility that the outbreak is a result of gross, widespread negligence in a region that has a high incidence of shady medical methods.
UNAids said international partner organizations had joined local teams to try to contain and investigate the outbreak. In a statement, it was concerned that about 600,000 unqualified doctors are working illegally in Pakistan, 270,000 of them in Sindh province where Larkana is located.
The outbreak also draws attention to the lack of HIV awareness and education among the mostly poor communities in this part of Sindh.
Resources have been stretched to the border of parents who require screening for their children and drugs for those who test positive. "They come from dozens," a doctor at a provisional clinic set up to try to deal with the situation.
"We are helpless. I have other children and I'm afraid they can catch the disease," a mother whose daughter recently tested positive for HIV told AFP's news agency.
"[Please] send some medicine to our children so that they can be cured. If not, all our children will die, right?"
The UN says Pakistan now has the second fastest growing HIV Asia, with about 20,000 new infections in 2017 alone.
Dr Maria Elena G Filio Borromeo, UNAid's 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 nail in HIV cases came from local media and not established official monitoring processes. 19659021] Dr Borromeo said that children who were about two months old were affected by the outbreak and said they would address the consequences for the rest of their lives. The UN Global Fund will stop paying for antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Pakistan from Decemb 2020, leaving it to the municipality to cover the costs.
Such outbreaks will continue as long as "the practice of needle reuse and insecure injection and blood transfusion is common throughout the country," she told Pakistan news. "The UN is ready to bring in experts from abroad and introduce best practices … but local authorities [must] are preparing medium and long-term strategies to prevent such outbreaks in the future," she said.