By Abimbola Ogunnaike
A rogue doctor named Muzaffar Ghangharo in Southern Pakistan has been held responsible for 500 people having HIV with contaminated needle
The Regional Coordinator of the AIDS Control Programme, Dr Sikandar Memon disclosed this to a Pakistani newspaper Dawn, adding that almost 14,000 individuals have now been screened in the district outside Larkana where the sudden spike in HIV incidence was first detected
Memon said of those testing positive, 410 are children, adding that another 29 patients tested positive in the most recent round of blood screening on Wednesday, 1 March, 2023, at the main hospital in Rato Dero, 25km outside Larkana, seen as the centre of the epidemic.
A doctor accused of infecting his patients through repeated use of a single, contaminated syringe remains in custody since the outbreak was first reported in late April.
Dr Muzaffar Ghangharo, who officials said is himself living with HIV, has been charged but denies the allegations.
Authorities are also not ruling out the possibility that the outbreak is the result of gross, widespread negligence in a region which has a high prevalence of shady medical practices.
UNAids said international partner organisations had joined local teams to try and contain and investigate the outbreak. In a statement, it said there were concerns that about 600,000 unqualified doctors are unlawfully operating in Pakistan, 270,000 of them in Sindh province where Larkana is located.
The outbreak is also bringing attention to the lack of HIV awareness and education among the mostly poor communities of this part of Sindh.
Resources have been stretched to the limit by parents demanding screening for their children and medicines 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.