Almost 900 children under the age of 12 have tested positive for HIV in Pakistan after being treated by a doctor who allegedly reused infected syringes.
At first, the outbreak was blamed on Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro, one of the cheapest and thus most popular pediatricians in the city of Ratodero. He was arrested and charged with negligence and manslaughter after being accused him of frequently reusing syringes on children.
Some parents noticed Dr. Ghanghro “rummaging through a bin” for needles to use on their children. When the story broke, many of them turned out to be HIV positive, with some of them dying.
About 200 adults have also tested positive for HIV since the epidemic in Ratodero was confirmed in April, although Dr. Ghanghro still claims he is innocent and says he has never reused syringes.
He is currently working as a GP at a government hospital, after renewing his medical license.
Now health officials say it’s unlikely the doctor was the sole cause of the outbreak. Many say reusing syringes and IV needles is common in Ratodero.
Unhygienic practices, such as using one razor to shave different customers in barbershops or not sterilizing dentists’ tools, are widespread in Pakistan. Health officials agree that they are one of the main reasons for the country’s surging HIV rates.
At least 35 children have died in Ratodero since April 25, with health officials fearing the real number of those living with the virus could be far higher than the 1,112 cases confirmed so far: less than a quarter of the city’s 200,000 residents have been tested so far.