Syringe Reuse May Not Be Only Reason for HIV Spreading in UP's Unnao

Officials say the large migratory population in Unnao and their high-risk behaviour may also be a reason.

New Delhi: As more details emerge, it seems that a “quack” who used to run his clinic on a bicycle in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao may not be the only reason for a sudden detection of HIV cases in the district.

The quack himself has been arrested and an FIR has been registered against him. He has been booked under Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease deadly to life) and 308 (culpable homicide) of the IPC and Section 15(3) of the Indian Medical Council Act.

“The syringe infection theory is doubtful because the virus doesn’t survive in the needle for months, and he was giving intra-muscular shots and not intravenous shots for it to spread the way it has spread. There is a possibility that it is a wrong accusation against the doctor,” said a district official to Hindustan Times.

Officials are also saying that the cases could be attributed to the large migratory population in the area (such as truck drivers) as well as their high-risk behaviour. At least two of the 58 who have now tested positive for HIV have told officials about having had unprotected sex while travelling for work.

Also, the rising trend of cases in Bangarmau has been happening over the last few months, as officials have been observing and dealing with this since at least July last year where they began to see a spurt in a few areas in the district.

Last July, 12 people tested HIV positive in a screening in just Bangarmau tehsil. Thirteen tested positive in another screening in November. And this January, 33 tested positive out of the 566 who were tested in Bangarmau. The detections have happened because of government-organised screening camps. This camp in January was organised after officials started noticing HIV cases coming up in routine tests at the Bangarmau district hospital in 2017.

The youngest person testing positive for HIV in these rounds of screening is a six year old, and many others are elderly. Six of them are in fact from one single family.

The quack charged only Rs 10

The quack doctor who has now been arrested – Rajendra Yadav – had been active in the area for about ten years. He used to charge only Rs 10 for his treatment. He also offered free medicines to residents of Bangarmau.

Newspaper reports said that the residents were afraid of doctors in the government facilities, who they found rude and unhelpful. Yadav was more polite with them and his medicines were cheap.

“Had the doctors of the community health centre given medicines to us free of cost, as provided by the state government, no one would have gone to the quack,” said one of the people who tested positive.

Health officials may have known about quacks transmitting HIV through syringe reuse last year

Another Hindustan Times report says that officials in Unnao were in fact told last year about a quack transmitting HIV through reused syringes. The current medical officer had written to the then medical officer last July, warning him about this.

This memo had apparently been sent from the state health department. This was after 12 people had tested positive in the first screening last July. The medical officer at the time was asked to do a detailed investigation. No action was apparently taken.

This latest incident in Unnao comes soon after reports last December on how 32 cataract patients were operated on with just a torch light. This was due to unsteady electricity at a state medical facility. The government had ordered an inquiry by the district magistrate to be carried out.