HIV cases in Unnao: Quack lured patients by offering treatment at Rs 10, says official
A fee of Rs 10 with medicines thrown in was the sales pitch that led to at least 38 people in Bangarmau town in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao contracting HIV, which causes AIDS, a senior medical officer said on Tuesday.
Rajendra Yadav, a quack, used a single syringe to treat all his patients leading to the spread of human immunodeficiency virus, Unnao chief medical officer SP Chowdhary said.
“As of now, he is the one responsible for so many people catching HIV infection. There can be other reasons but initial investigation puts the onus on him,” he said.
The trail could get longer. While 38 people were found to be positive in tests carried out in the last week of January, 25 were found to be infected with HIV last year in this largely rural area.
HIV can survive in syringes used to draw infected blood for up to four weeks, with the virus surviving longer in temperatures lower than 4°C. Temperatures higher that 27-37°C inactivate the virus within a week.
Promising action, Uttar Pradesh health minister Sidharth Nath Singh said the government would initiate strict action against unqualified medical practitioners.
“The state government has ordered an investigation. It was found that a local quack has given injection to the patients. The district administration has identified him and he will be arrested soon,” Singh said.
“Patients have been shifted to GSVM Medical College, Kanpur, for treatment. Since it is a transit point, HIV carriers are likely to come there. The district administration is looking into the matter,” he said.
Yadav’s youngest victim is a six-year-old while many of the patients are in their 70s. Six of the people are from the same family. “All of them were treated by him in the past,” Chowdhary said.
Yadav’s “clinic” was a bicycle and he moved easily from village to village. He had quite a following in three localities, Premgunj, Kareemuddin Nagar and Chakmeera, the CMO said.
Red flags went up when 12 residents of Premgunj tested positive for HIV in July 2017. They were tested for HIV at Unnao’s integrated counselling and testing centre (ICTC). The patients had complained of fever and diarrhoea, Pankaj Shukla, a counsellor at ICTC, said.
Again in November, an NGO, Amin Welfare Society, alerted ICTC that 13 patients had tested positive for the virus at a screening camp in Premgunj.
The NGO is affiliated to the UP AIDS Control Society and holds camps to identify HIV patients in rural areas. ICTC centres have been set up in government hospitals as part of the national aids control programme and they offer tests and counselling for HIV.
“We were surprised with the number of patients coming from a single locality,” the CMO said.
On January 24, 25 and 27, the health department organised camps in Premgunj, Kareemuddin Nagar and Chakmeera where 566 people were screened.
As many as 38 people tested positive for HIV, taking the number of patients in the last seven months to 63.
Police were finding it hard to track Yadav, as no one seems to know his address. His mobile phone was also found to be switched off.
The patients had been referred to the antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre in Kanpur for further treatment. “People are being asked to stay away from quacks and visit hospitals for treatment,” the CMO said.
The infections highlight challenges that India faces in the healthcare sector, which remains underserved because of an acute shortage of doctors and health workers. The doctor-patient ratio in India is 1:1,674 population, shows the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence 2017 data, against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended 1:1,000.
The shortage of health providers and infrastructure is the most acute in rural areas, where people turn to quacks in desperation. Only one in five doctors in rural India are qualified to practice modern medicine, said the WHO report on The Health Workforce in India. Published in 2016, the report found 31.4% of those calling themselves allopathic doctors were educated only up to Class 12 and 57.3% doctors did not have a medical qualification.
India has done well to control HIV. The number of people living with the virus has more than halved from 5.1 million in 2003 to 2.1 million in 2016, government data shows.
India is home to the world’s third largest HIV population — after South Africa (7.1 million) and Nigeria (3.2 million) — but it has more to do with its 1.32 billion population than high infection rates.