A man masquerading as a doctor infected at least 21 villagers in Lucknow, India with HIV using contaminated syringes and needles, health authorities say.
Sushil Choudhury stated that the police are now looking for one Rajendra Yadav, who fled Bangarmau, a small town in Uttar Pradesh state, after people found out about the HIV infections in December. Yadav had been going around northern India, supposedly treating poor villages for coughs, colds and diarrhea, USA Today reports.
According to the villagers, they did not see Yadav changing the needles when he was around, which Choudhury said likely caused the HIV virus to spread.
India’s health care system is currently facing a huge shortage of doctors and hospitals, which has led to a proliferation of fake doctors, who charge cheaper treatments and fees. In 2016, India had 2.1 million people living with HIV, according to a report by UNAIDS. Of these, 9,100 were children younger than 15. On the bright side, the country has seen a 20% annual decrease in new infections over recent years, this report notwithstanding.
Yadav would apparently visit the villages on his bicycle and would treat patients outdoors. He would give injections for all possible ailments at incredibly cheap prices, Choudhury related. A sudden spike in HIV cases in and around Bangarmau was detected in December, alerting state officials.
An investigation showed that almost all of them had taken injections from one person. This was an important lead. We set up special medical camps in villages in the area and checked 566 people, and 21 were found to be HIV positive.
Mehtab Alam, a project manager for Raza Husain Memorial Charitable Trust, said that one way to differentiate fake doctors is that they use glass syringes instead of disposable ones, employing it and one needle for hundreds of patients. The charity works with HIV and AIDS patients in northern India. Alam said, “Villagers are ignorant about hygiene.”