Activists mark World AIDS Day in Karachi, Pakistan, on December 1, 2012. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani Police Arrest Physician Accused of Transmitting HIV Virus to Patients

Close to 60 children test positive Ÿ Doctor denies charges, claims conspiracy against him

[Islamabad] Pakistani police arrested a doctor on April 30 for allegedly transmitting the HIV virus to dozens of patients – mostly children – and have opened an investigation against him.

It is not clear whether Dr. Muzaffar Ghangharo acted deliberately or negligently.

The incident, a first of its kind in Pakistan, occurred in the Ratodero police jurisdiction in the Larkana district of Pakistan’s northwestern Sindh province.

Ghangharo was arrested after authorities at the Sindh AIDS Control Program lodged a complaint against him with police.

“We arrested him following a written complaint. A First Information report has been registered. He is accused of infecting people, mostly children, with HIV,” Masood Ahmed Bangash of the Larkana district police told The Media Line.

“The doctor has denied the allegations leveled against him. However, a police investigation is underway. We have to wait until its conclusion,” Bangash said.

Last week, Sindh personnel were shocked after 22 children tested positive for the HIV virus. This prompted health officials to launch a massive drive to ascertain the status of the disease throughout Ratodero subdivision, and within two days, the number of HIV-positive people climbed to 58, most of them children, which panicked officials as well as local residents.

During the course of Sindh’s investigation, officials said, it was revealed that most of the children who tested positive had visited Ghangharo’s private clinic for other ailments.

“The inquiry pointed a finger at Dr. [Ghangharo],” Sartaj Ahmed, an officer at the Ratodero police station, told The Media Line.

Following results of the initial inquiry, Noman Siddiqui, deputy police commissioner of Larkana, ordered a medical examination of the doctor, which revealed that he himself had AIDS.

“The doctor himself was found to be HIV infected,” Siddiqui told The Media Line. “Police are interrogating him after securing his remand from district courts.”

Ghangharo insisted that there might be a conspiracy against him.

“I didn’t know that I was HIV-infected. Officials from the Health Department may have hatched a conspiracy against me,” a police official who is a part of the investigating team quoted the doctor as saying.

A wave of fear has been felt among the entire subdivision of Ratodero following the large number of HIV cases. Senior figures from the Sindh AIDS Control Program confirmed that the situation was alarming.

“Teams have been formed [to look into the issue] and are scheduled to visit the area in a few days,” Sindh chairman Sikander Memon told The Media Line.

According to a World Health Organization report released last December, Pakistan registers approximately 20,000 new cases of HIV infections annually – the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region.

Data collected from Pakistan’s National Aids Control Program indicate that there might be as many as 150,000 HIV patients in the country. Only 16 percent have been tested. Nine percent have access to lifesaving treatment.

“It’s an alarming situation, but we are trying to cope with it,” Dr. Saima Paracha, of the National AIDS Control Program, told the English–language daily The Nation. “The remaining 135,000 people are carriers of [the HIV] infection.”

Larkana continues to top the list of districts most affected by HIV in Sindh Province, with the total number of AIDS patients at more than 2,400.

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