At least 33 people in northern India have been infected with HIV after a quack doctor used contaminated syringes and needles to administer injections.
The police in Uttar Pradesh state’s Unnao district filed a complaint against Rajendra Yadav, who has fled the region in anticipation of arrest, the district’s chief medical officer SP Choudhary told dpa by phone.
Choudhary said the state’s health department had launched an investigation following reports of high number of HIV cases from the Bangarmau region.
Teams visited the region to hold screening camps at the end of January. Of 566 people screened, 33 were confirmed HIV positive, the official said.
Five of those infected were children, mostly under the age of 12 years.
“Locals say the fake doctor who used to treat them for common ailments rarely changed needles and syringes, often using them repeatedly,” Choudhary said by phone from Unnao.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is transmitted through unprotected sex, use of infected needles and syringes, blood transfusion or from mother to baby. HIV, if untreated, causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Medical teams were looking into other possible causes of infection in Bangarmau, including sexual transmission.
Authorities suspect Yadav to be the main culprit behind the infections because most of the HIV positive were found to have received injections from him.
Bangarmau, where the fake doctor practised, had a high rate of HIV in comparison to adjoining areas that reported almost no cases, Choudhary said.
Yadav visited villages on his bicycle and treated the patients outdoors. Villagers said he used the same syringe and needle in the name of cheaper treatment.
The locals, mostly illiterate farmers and workers, were unaware about medical hygiene or transmission of infections by reusing needles and syringes.
India has poor standards of medical care due to a lack of doctors and hospitals for its burgeoning population.
Millions of people in towns and villages rely on quack doctors for cheap treatment. The Indian Medical Association estimated there are 1 million fake doctors practising in the country despite campaigns by health authorities.
State health minister Sidharth Nath Singh told reporters that the patients had been referred to the anti-retroviral therapy centre in the nearby city of Kanpur.
The therapy involves a combination of anti-retroviral drugs to suppress HIV and stop its progression. ART also helps prevent transmission of HIV.
India had a total of 2.1 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016, with new infections that year totalling 80,000.
“We are investigating the matter and will arrest the accused soon,” Singh said. “We will also take action against doctors practising without proper licences or degrees.”