By Neville Lazarus,
Thirty-three people have been infected with HIV after a fake doctor allegedly injected them with contaminated needles and syringes.
All of those testing positive are from the north Indian town of Bangarmau, where the unlicensed practitioner was working.
The suspect, Rajendra Kumar, is alleged to have used the same syringes as those he had previously used to treat flu, fever and body ache.
Dr Sushil Choudhary, the district’s chief medical officer, told Sky News: “The quack was operating in this rural area and only charged 10 rupees (11p) for an injection.
“He used the same syringe and many poor people went to him for cheaper treatment.
“We have screened 566 persons so far and 38 have been reactive, of these 33 are HIV positive. They have all been sent to the Kanpur Medical Hospital where they are under anti-retroviral therapy and drugs are being administered to stop any progression.”
The incident came to light when a government-run health camp was held in the town in November, finding a high number of HIV cases.
India’s health department then launched an investigation and set up three screening camps for the town’s residents.
India marks World AIDS Day every December, with the country home to 2.1 million people who live with HIV
According to locals, the fake doctor is a resident of a neighbouring village and was claiming to cure people of common illnesses. Because he charged less money, the villagers went to him instead of the government clinic.
Dr Choudhary continued: “We have lodged a police case against the quack and have started a crackdown on illegal practitioners who are playing with the lives of people.”
Health minister Sidharth Nath Singh added: “Action will be taken against culprits and those who practice without a licence.
“Since it’s a transit point, HIV carriers are likely to come there. So we’re mapping truck drivers who come there and offer treatment to them.”
According to 2017 UNAIDS data, India has 2.1 million people living with HIV, which is about 0.26% of its population. Of those, 9,100 were children under the age of 15.
New HIV infections in the country have decreased by 46% since 2010 and the number of AIDS-related deaths has come down by 22% in the same period.
By Neville Lazarus,