HIV Outbreaks Linked To Blood Transfusions Discovered In Central Asia

Armen Hareyan's picture

Outbreaks of HIV linked to blood transfusions have occurred throughoutCentral Asia since an outbreak of the virus was discovered at achildren's hospital in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, the Chicago Tribune reports (Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune, 9/16).

Twenty-onehealth workers and health officials in Shymkent were put on trial formedical malpractice following the HIV outbreak. A medical investigationconducted by CDCidentified transfusions of tainted blood as the source of the ShymkentHIV outbreak. Since summer 2006, 118 children who received bloodtransfusions at the hospital have tested positive for HIV. Ten of thechildren have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Seventeen healthworkers in Shymkent in June were sentenced to prison after beingconvicted of criminal negligence following the outbreak (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/28).

Attorneysfor the convicted doctors claimed that the children contracted HIVthrough mother-to-child transmission. However, the women were testedand found to be HIV-negative, Katira Bekbolova, a lawyer for theparents of the HIV-positive children, said. According to court records,officials tried to cover up the outbreak. A court-ordered evaluation ofsupplies and procedures at the hospitals found that syringes andcatheters routinely were reused and that the hospitals did not have anadequate supply of catheters (Chicago Tribune, 9/16).


Theparents of the HIV-positive children say that doctors charged them $20for 14 ounces of blood and shared the profits with the local bloodbank. Some of the doctors in Shymkent say their low wages force them tofind ways of earning additional income, and a profit of up to $10 oneach blood transfusion is a significant amount because doctors'salaries begin at $175 monthly. Judge Ziyadinkhan Pirniyaz, whopresided over the case, gave suspended sentences to senior healthofficial Nursulu Tasmagambetova and three others. The remainingdefendants received jail sentences ranging from a few months to eightyears. Pirniyaz listed evidence of negligence, abuse of patients andtheft of health funds. The attorneys for the children's parents saidthey will appeal the decision.

"Salaries are very low, and evenincreases don't make a difference because of inflation," AmangeldyShopaer -- deputy chief physician at the Shymkent Infectious DiseasesHospital, where all the HIV-positive children have received treatment-- said. The children's families say government neglect has compoundedtheir situation. In addition, many of the children's families have beenforced to move after experiencing HIV/AIDS-related discrimination (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report,6/28). Kazakh authorities have reacted to the outbreak by building anew children's hospital in Shymkent. In addition, old hospitals willreceive new equipment, doctors will be retrained and hospitaladministrations will undergo weekly inspections, the Tribune reports.

According to the Tribune,nine people in Andijan, Uzbekistan, in March contracted HIV afterreceiving blood transfusions from an HIV-positive donor who recentlyhad been released from prison. In addition, officials in Osh,Kyrgyzstan, in July fired several doctors for infecting 22 people,including 17 children, with HIV.

Although HIV prevalence is lowin Central Asia compared with other former Soviet republics, expertssay the region could experience an increase in cases if prevention isnot made a priority, the Tribune reports. "Shymkent rang a bell for Central Asia," Nicolas Cantau -- regional director of the AIDS Foundation East-Westoffice in Almaty, Kazakhstan -- said, adding that the region is "in thesame place Ukraine was seven years ago, when authorities missed anopportunity to contain the problem and now have seen (nearly) 1% oftheir population become HIV-positive." There are an estimated 12,000HIV cases in Kazakhstan, the Tribune reports (Chicago Tribune, 9/16).

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