KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Over 700 children in Pakistan who were infected with HIV had mostly received injections with contaminated, reused needles for ailments like diarrhoea and respiratory infections.
The Guardian reported an investigation published in the medical journal Lancet that said the children could have been treated with pills or oral medicine for such conditions, but their families, who typically have to pay for treatment, were said to have greater confidence in injections.
The study investigated more than 30,000 people in the town of Ratodero in Pakistan, who were tested for HIV, the virus that causes Aids, after the outbreak became public in April. The government reportedly shuttered three blood banks, almost 300 clinics, and the Sindh health care commission.
“Pakistan has experienced a series of HIV outbreaks over the past two decades, but we’ve never before seen this many young children infected or so many health facilities involved,” lead author Dr Fatima Mir from Pakistan’s Aga Khan University was quoted saying.
“Use of syringes and needles is widespread, and Pakistan has one of the highest rates of unsafe injections in the world. Health practitioners need to use intravenous treatment only when necessary, use needles only once and screen blood for infections before using it for transfusions.”
The research found blood banks were frequently unregistered and unregulated, while blood donors were often paid. Screening for infections was reportedly “erratic”.
Of the 763 children in Ratodero below 16 who tested positive for HIV, only two-thirds of them could start antiretroviral therapy because of insufficient drug supplies or trained staff. Nine children have died. A quarter of the children infected with HIV were reportedly in a state of advanced disease, indicating the infection began some time ago.