Over 600 test positive for HIV in Pakistani city

ISLAMABAD • Pakistan said yesterday that more than 600 people in a city in the southern Sindh province, most of them children, have tested positive for HIV.

Concern grew after hundreds of people were allegedly infected by a doctor who had used a contaminated syringe in Rato Dero city and the surrounding villages in Larkana district.

"Some 681 people, of whom 537 were children from two to 12 years of age, had tested positive for HIV until yesterday in Rato Dero," special health adviser Zafar Mirza told a press conference in Islamabad.

He said 21,375 people have been screened in Rato Dero, adding that the increase in the number of patients who tested positive for HIV was "a matter of grave concern" for the government.

One cause being investigated by the Pakistani authorities was the use of "unsafe syringes" on patients.

Dr Mirza said: "Initial investigations reveal that used syringes are being repacked, which may not only significantly grow the number of HIV-positive cases, but also other diseases."

The federal government is providing 50,000 HIV-screening kits to Sindh.

"The government will get to the bottom of the outbreak and fully assist the provincial government to provide treatment to all patients," Dr Mirza said, adding that a team of experts from the World Health Organisation will assist the Pakistani authorities in ascertaining the cause of the infections.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'Over 600 test positive for HIV in Pakistani city'. Print Edition | Subscribe