Three Headed Monster
HIV is not the only threat from unsafe healthcare. Pakistan has one of the worst epidemics of hepatitis C in the world due to unsterile practices during healthcare and cosmetic services. Hepatitis B is also common. In this link, Sohail Rabbani characterizes hepatitis B, C, and HIV as a Three Headed Monster threatening Pakistan. The same monster threatens other countries.
Kot Imrana, near Kot Momin, Sargodha, 2018-19
In January 2019, the Health Department found 669 (13.4%) of 5,000 residents of Kot Imrana were HIV-positive. HIV prevalence was higher in women and children. “[A] quack was found to have used the same syringe on multiple patients.” There are many quacks in the region. “[B]arbers are the other sources of HIV transmission because they use contaminated razors and blades.” Awareness of the disaster is unfolding, but it is taking time to see it clearly, both in Pakistan and international reports.
Almost one year earlier, in early March 2018, the Pakistan Observer reported “elders of the area [Kot Imrana village] brought the matter [of many HIV-positive residents] to the knowledge of the Punjab government.” Responding to local concerns, the health department drew and sent blood from 2,757 residents for HIV tests. By mid-March 2018, tests found 204 (14.5%) of 1,406 persons to be HIV-positive, but no results had yet been received for more than 1,300 samples. In mid-March 2018, The local District Health Authority Chief Executive Officer Dr Nusrat Riaz “told the publication [Pakistan Today] that the disease had mainly spread in the area due to the use of one syringe on multiple [people] by a local quack.”
While the press in Pakistan reported a serious problem by March 2018, as late as June 2018, a leading international journal misleadingly reported only 1.29% HIV prevalence in the village.
Chiniot, near Sargodha, 2017
After initial reports of HIV in a village near Chiniot, health officials set up a camp to test residents. Seventy came for tests, of which 42 tested HIV-positive: 27 women, 17 men, and a 7 year old girl. The article reporting these infections quotes a doctor: “It’s a misconception that HIV is contracted because of sexual contact only. It also spreads if an infected blood syringe or shaving blade is used. The use of infected blood in a transfusion also causes it.” A later report raised the number infected to 48.
After reports of HIV infection among persons getting dialysis at the Chandka Medical College, Pakistan’s National AIDS Control Program investigated. The investigation found that 56 (27.3%) of 205 dialysis patients were HIV-positive. “The report mentions that infection control practices were few…”
Jalalpur Jattan, 2008
In 2008, an HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) center near Jalalpur Jattan town in Gujrat noted some unexpected HIV infections. To get a better idea about what was happening, the New Light AIDS Control Society, a local NGO, organized two 1-day HIV-testing camps in Jalalpur Jattan in June-July 2008. During these two days, 246 were tested, and 88 were found to be HIV-positive.
Subsequently, the New Light AIDS Control Society worked with the Canada Pakistan HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project (HASP) and Punjab’s Provincial AIDS Control Program to analyze information from the 88 found HIV-positive in the testing camps plus three found HIV-positive from tests elsewhere. They concluded many infections came from “local medics (quacks) who have not been observing the sterilization and infection control techniques…” Two HIV-positive children had HIV-negative parents, and many women with no sex risk were HIV-positive.
The many HIV infections the New Light AIDS Control Society found got the attention of Pakistan’s National AIDS Control Program in the Ministry of Health. In November 2008, a team from the Ministry made a 1-day visit to Jalalpur Jattan. The report from the 1-day visit recommended an epidemiological investigation. Pakistan’s National Institute of Health assigned Pakistan’s Field Epidemiology & Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) to investigate, with assistance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The terms of reference asked the team (p 263 in ) to: “…to determine the extent and chain of transmission” and to “identify…sites of potential transmission.”
FELTP’s resulting “Report on HIV/AIDS Outbreak Investigation at Jalalpur Jattan (JPJ), Gujarat” is better termed a cover-up than an investigation (to protect the confidentiality of people with HIV, this link omits family trees on pages 36-48). The investigating team revised and published this confidential report in 2013.
Because it was fairly clear unsafe healthcare was responsible for many infections, at least part of the challenge was to trace and test people who had visited suspected clinics. The team didn’t do that: it didn’t identify any facility suspected to transmit HIV through skin-piercing procedures, and did not invite clients at suspect facilities to come for tests. So, as it was carried out, the “investigation” could not meet its objectives.
Instead, beginning with a list of 20 HIV-positive people provided by the local government hospital, the team traced relatives and looked for people with stigmatized behaviors (sex work, male-male sex, injection drug use). Overall, the team identified 53 persons with HIV, including 26 previously tested. These 53 cases included more women than men as well as 6 children aged 1-10 years.
The investigation identified various blood exposures in HIV-positive persons (pp 264-265 in ): “The most common risk factor for HIV infection was the history of injections (n = 51, 96.2%)… Twenty seven (96.4%) female patients had a history of ear and nose piercing… Twenty-one (40%) of the cases interviewed had a history of dental procedures… Eighteen (72%) of the men had a history of barber shop visits on a monthly or even more frequent basis… Fourteen (26.5%) gave a history of undergoing a surgical procedure… Eight (15%) had a history of receiving a blood transfusion..”
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4. 204 patients test positive for HIV/AIDS in Sarghoda. Dunya News, 19 March 2018. Available at: https://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/431865-patients-test-positive-HIV/AIDS-Sargodha (accessed 4 April 2018).
5. 100 more people tested positive for HIV/AIDS: report. Monitoring report, 16 March 2018. Available at: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/03/16/100-more-people-tested-positive-for-hivaids-report/ (accessed 13 October 2018).
6. Zaid M. Afzal MS. HIV outbreak in Pakistan. Lancet Infect Dis 2018; 18: 601. Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(18)30281-0/fulltext
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7. Islam S. AIDS scare in a Chiniot village as 42 residents test positive for HIV. The Express Tribute, 31 July 20178. Available at: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1470850/aids-scare-chiniot-village-42-residents-test-positive-hiv/ (accessed 4 April 2018).
8. 48 people including children diagnosed with AIDS in Chiniot. Daily Dunya 16 September 2017. Available at: http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/405397-48-people-including-children-diagnosed-with-AIDS-in-Chiniot (accessed 13 October 2018).
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11.. National AIDS Control Program, Ministry of Health, Islamabad. Report on rapid situation analysis of the HIV outbreak in Jalal Pur Jattan, Gujrat District. November 2008. Available at: https://dontgetstuck.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/natlaidscontrolprogramjpjvisit.pdf.
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13. Field Epidemiology & Laboratory Training Program, National Institute of Health, Ministry of Health, Islamabad. Report on HIV/AIDS outbreak investigation at Jalalpur Jattan, Gujrat, June 2009. Available at: https://dontgetstuck.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/feltp-investigation.pdf.