Pakistani doctors blame quacks for alarming rise in HIV cases

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has blamed quack doctors practicing without training and professional certification for an alarming rise in the number of HIV positive patients in the country, local media reported on Wednesday.

The doctors associated with the PMA said that the quacks, especially fake dentists, spread the virus by using instruments that were not sterilized, adding that despite free-of-cost availability of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs at government hospitals, mortality ratio among patients carrying the virus was also increasing.

An alarming surge in HIV cases has been witnessed recently in five districts of eastern Punjab province with 70 to 90 cases being reported monthly at the main government health facility in Faisalabad city, Dawn News reported on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, an international team of experts from the World Health Organization kicked off an investigation into the sudden HIV outbreak in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province after over 700 people have been diagnosed with the virus in a matter of weeks, most of them were children.

After the outbreak, local authorities launched a crackdown on unqualified doctors as well as illegal blood banks and laboratories said to be involved in spreading the disease, and arrested at least 17 quack doctors and shuttered more than 70 clinics in southern Larkana district.

According to the PMA, more than 600,000 quacks are currently practicing in the country with more than 80,000 based in Punjab province alone. The association demanded the government to make all-out efforts to stop the menace of quackery in the country.

Pakistan was considered a country of low HIV prevalence for long, but the disease is expanding at an alarming rate with about 20,000 new HIV cases reported in 2017 alone, according to the United Nations.