A small city in Pakistan is reeling after nearly 900 children under 12 have been diagnosed with HIV after a doctor allegedly reused infected syringes.
About 200 adults have also tested positive for this deadly virus since the epidemic in Retodero city was confirmed. And Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro, a pediatrician who charges only 16p per visit, the cheapest in the town, is solely to blame for the outbreak.
According to health reports, approximately 1,100 citizens in Ratodero city have tested positive for the virus since April this year. Still, healthcare leaders in the country warned that the number could be much higher because only a fraction of the population has been examined.
Dr. Muzaffar was arrested and charged with negligence, manslaughter, and causing unintentional harm after his patients discovered he was reusing syringes on multiple patients.
Investigators concluded that many of the infected children had gone to the same pediatrician, Muzaffar, who served the city's impoverished families.
Imtiaz Jalbani, whose six kids were treated by the pediatrician, revealed that Dr. Ganghro searched through his bin for an old needle to use on his six-year-old son. Later the child was diagnosed as HIV-positive.
And when Jalbani protested, the doctor said the father was "too poor to pay for a new needle." Sadly, four of Jalbani's children have since tested positive for the virus, and the two youngest, only 14 months and 3 years old have already died.
Another parent, whose three children contracted the disease after being treated by Dr. Ganghro, told Reuters that the pediatrician "applied the same drip on 50 children without changing the needle."
A local TV reporter, Gulbahar Shaikh, who broke the news of the outbreak, also discovered that his 2-year-old daughter, who went to the same doctor, has also contracted the virus.
Although Dr. Ghanghro has maintained his innocence, insisting he has never reused syringes, he's still working as a GP at a government hospital on the outskirts of the city after renewing his medical license.
According to health professionals, Dr. Ghanghro is unlikely to be the sole cause of the epidemic. Many visiting heath workers have witnessed other doctors reuse syringes and intravenous needles in the region.
Barbers in the region have also been seen using the same razor and roadside dentists working on patients on pavements, with unsterilized surgical equipment.
Health officials argued that such unhygienic practices prevalent in Pakistan could be the leading cause of the high rate of HIV infections.
A local doctor, Dr. Imran Akbar Arbani, said that "unless these quack doctors, barbers, and dentists are not checked, the number of incidents of HIV infection will continue going up."