Nearly 900 children under the age of 12 have tested positive for HIV in Ratodero (Sindh) after a children’s doctor allegedly reused infected syringes.
The outbreak was initially blamed solely on Dr Muzaffar Ghanghro, who served the city’s poorest families and appeared to be at the centre of the outbreak.
According to a report published in The New York Times, Dr Ghanghro was subsequently arrested and charged with negligence and manslaughter after his patients accused him of frequently reusing syringes on their children, but he has not yet been convicted, Dr Ghanghro insisted that he is innocent and has never reused syringes.
The local journalist who broke the news of the epidemic to residents of his city earlier this year, Gulbahar Shaikh, rushed his own family to be tested when Dr Ghanghro was placed under suspicion as he was his own children’s paediatrician.
Tragically, Shaikh’s two-year-old daughter was confirmed to have the virus, something the 44-year-old father described as ‘devastating’.
Health officials have now said the doctor is unlikely to be the sole cause of the outbreak, with visiting health workers saying they had witnessed many cases of doctors reusing syringes and intravenous needles in the area.
Not only that, but barbers use the same razor on multiple customers, while roadside dentists work on patients’ teeth on pavements with unsterilised tools. According to health officials, such unhygienic practices which are prevalent across Pakistan are probably the leading cause of the country’s surging rates of HIV infection.