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12 more children, one adult tested positive for HIV in Larkana

Top Story

May 3, 2019

KARACHI: As many as 12 children and an adult were tested positive for HIV positive in Larkana on Thursday during a mass screening drive in the area, which is underway since April 24, 2019. Meanwhile, the Sindh Police asked the Sindh Health Department to nominate a panel of medical experts to assist a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that is probing into the latest outbreak and trying to ascertain if there is a criminal intent in infecting children and adults with the lethal virus.

Law enforcing agencies, as well as provincial, national and international health organizations and authorities, started separate probes and mass screening drives in the Larkana district after local health authorities reported an HIV positive outbreak among young children aged between a few months to eight years.

“Today 12 children and an adult were tested positive for HIV/AIDS during mass screening that is being done at four screening camps established by the Sindh Health Department. So far, 93 new patients with HIV/AIDS have been identified since April 24,” said Dr. Masood Solangi, Director General Health, Sindh, while talking to The News on Thursday.

Of the 93 new patients, 74 are children while 19 are adults, health officials said and added that strangely, parents of majority of the children tested positive for the lethal viral disease were found to be negative for HIV positive.

Officials said by Thursday sunset, they had screened around 2,800 people through four screening camps and added that they were now facing a shortage of testing kits although the National AIDS Control Program had also provided around 3,000 kits to the Sindh Health Department for the screening of people in the Larkana district and its adjoining areas.

On the other hand, the Larkana Division Police have urged the Sindh Health Department to nominate three or four doctors to be part of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which has been formed by the police to investigate if there is some criminal intent behind the AIDS epidemic after some parents alleged that a physician had deliberately injected children with blood infected with HIV/AIDS virus.

Police have already arrested a physician and formed a JIT to investigate if he was involved in the deliberate act of infecting children with HIV/AIDS virus in Larkana but the JIT members could not proceed further due to technical nature of the probe and requested the health department to nominate some doctors to assist them in investigation.

“As this investigation is highly technical and requires technical and medical assistance, we request the health department to depute three, four doctors to assist the JIT in ascertaining if there was a criminal intent in spreading HIV/AIDS”, requested DIG Larkana Range, Irfan Baloch in a letter to the Sindh Health Secretary on Thursday.

UNAIDS officials, however, were not satisfied with the mass screening of people in Larkana division and urged the Sindh Health Department to launch a proper “epidemiological probe” into HIV/AIDS epidemic in the area, saying the provincial government had neither the resources, nor the expertise to screen the entire population of a district and also termed it a futile effort.

“A proper epidemiological probe or survey is required to ascertain the actual source of the infection, as mostly children are being tested positive while their parents are not infected with the virus. Our assessment is that reuse of syringes and unscreened blood is the cause of this latest epidemic that has gripped a particular area”, an official of the UNAIDS told The News.

A team of pediatricians and technicians carrying testing kits, medicines and other supplies on Thursday left for Larkana, Medical Superintendent CHK Dr. Khadim Hussain said.

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