Karachi: Infectious diseases experts investigating an HIV outbreak in Larkana epidemic have demanded authorities to immediately impose a “ban on use of injections at the clinics” run by General Practitioners (GPs)” in the province after it was learnt that majority of the persons infected with HIV were children aging between 2-5 years, who neither contracted the disease from their mothers nor through blood transfusion.
As many as 56 more persons, including 42 children were found infected with HIV in Ratodero area of Larkana on Saturday, Sindh health department officials told The News on Saturday, saying so far 393 people have been found infected with the lethal virus including 312 children and added that majority of these patients when interviewed they received medicines through injections sometime in during last one year.
“During an interview with the newly infected HIV patients and their parents, it has emerged that reuse of syringes is the major cause of spreading the viral disease and we have urged the health department to immediately impose a ban on use of injections at clinics by general practitioners”, an Infectious Diseases (ID) expert who has been tasked to investigate the recent outbreak in Ratodero area of Larkana, said.
The health expert, who requested anonymity, claimed according to preliminary investigation by May 11, 2019, it was found that of the 393 people found infected with the HIV, 214 were children of two to five years of age followed by 75 children who were of 6-15 years of age.
“We also found 28 children infected with HIV who were less than of one year of age and screening of their parents revealed that their mothers were not infected while majority of these children had not received blood during their entire life”, the expert said and maintained that receiving some kind of medicine through injection was the most common intervention that could be blamed for the spread of HIV in Ratodero area of the Larkana.
Suspecting that there could be more such pockets where large number of children could have been infected with HIV, the Infectious Diseases expert said even the pharmacists and international experts were calling for an immediate ban on use of injections at the clinics run by the general practitioners while authorities should take a stern action against quacks who were playing with the lives of people by resorting to unhealthy practices in the province.
Dr. Fatima Mir, an expert from Aga Khan University who is in Larkana and involved in treatment and management of newly-found cases of HIV, also suspected that reuse of syringes, unnecessary use of injections and intravenous drips could be the major source of HIV infection and called for making people aware that they should avoid pricking as much as possible and insist on having oral medicines in case of any medical emergency or requirement.
Director General Health Sindh Dr. Masood Solangi while talking to The News confirmed that reuse of syringes had emerged as major source of infection among children in Ratodero, Larkana and said a proposal to take some action in this regard was under consideration.
“At the moment, investigation is underway but infectious diseases experts and epidemiologists are suggesting that reuse of syringes could be the main source of spreading HIV. In addition to banning use of injections other than major hospitals, we need to educate masses that they should not insist on having injections in case of minor illnesses”, Dr. Solangi maintained.
He also called for imposing a complete ban on production of large injection vials by the pharmaceutical companies, saying quacks and untrained doctors use these large vials for extracting medicine for several patients and infect the medicine, which could also be source of spreading HIV, Hepatitis and other infectious diseases to the patients.
HIV treatment center established at Larkana
Meanwhile, a pediatric treatment center for newly infected children has been established by the Sindh health department at the Chandka Medical College (CMC) Larkana which was inaugurated was inaugurated by Sindh Secretary Health Saeed Awan on Friday.
“We established this treatment center for newly infected children at CMC Larkana so that these children could get their Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) medicines timely instead of going to Civil Hospital Karachi”, Secretary Health Saeed Awan said and added that with the support from National Aids Control Program (NACP), medicines would soon be provided to the infected children so that they could live a normal life.
He said all the baseline tests as well as equipment to count CD4 T lymphocytes have been made available at the CMC hospital Larkana and added that national and international experts were present in the area to train and educate local doctors while an awareness campaign to educate masses would soon the launched apprise people of measures that could prevent them from contracting infectious diseases.