At least 33 people in northern India have been infected with HIV after a fake doctor used contaminated syringes and needles to administer injections.
Police in Uttar Pradesh state's Unnao district filed a complaint against Rajendra Yadav, who fled the region in anticipation of arrest, the district's chief medical officer S.P. Choudhary told dpa on the phone. Choudhary said the state's health department had launched an investigation following reports of a high number of HIV cases on the Bangarmau region.
Teams visited the region to hold screening camps at the end of January. Of the 566 people screened, 33 were confirmed HIV positive, the official said. Five of those infected were children, mostly under the age of 12."Locals say the fake doctor who used to treat them for common ailments rarely changed needles and syringes, often using them repeatedly," Choudhary said in a phone call from Unnao.
HIV, or the 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 AIDS.
Authorities suspect Yadav to be the main culprit behind the infections because most of the HIV positive patients were found to have received injections from him.
Bangarmau, where the fake doctor practiced, has a higher rate of HIV when compared to adjoining areas that reported almost no cases, Choudhary said.
Yadav visited villages on his bicycle and treated 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 of 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 practicing in the country despite campaigns by health authorities.
India had a total of 2.1 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016, with new infections that year totaling 80,000.
"We are investigating the matter and will arrest the accused soon," Singh said. "We will also take action against doctors practicing without proper licenses or degrees."