Wednesday 19 June 2019

HIV outbreak infects hundreds of children

 

'Researchers believe the virus has been spread by doctors who do not use clean needles' (stock photo)
'Researchers believe the virus has been spread by doctors who do not use clean needles' (stock photo)

Ben Farmer

Hundreds of babies and toddlers have been found infected with HIV in a Pakistani city in an "unprecedented" outbreak of the virus in which children are the worst affected.

Three-quarters of those testing positive for the virus since the outbreak was discovered a month ago in Rotadero in Sindh province are children, with nearly two-thirds aged five or under.

Unqualified "quack" doctors sharing dirty needles for injections, intravenous drips and blood transfusions have been blamed for spreading the virus.

Dr Maria Elena Filio-Borromeo, Pakistan director for the United Nations' Aids and HIV programme, said she had not seen anything similar in Asia.

"This one is just unprecedented. It's such a very unique kind of profile, because those infected are children."

The young have been infected in a country where HIV treatment remains rare for the poor, and where 6,200 lives were lost to Aids in 2018.

The outbreak was detected when a paediatrician was concerned that eight of her young patients were finding it difficult to shake off fevers and not getting better when given medicine.

Testing found all were HIV positive and a screening programme was started in the city a month ago.

Since then, 18,418 people have been screened and 607 have been found positive. Of those, 381 are aged five or under. The figure is expected to rise as screening increases.

Researchers believe the virus has been spread by doctors who do not use clean needles.

Irish Independent

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