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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 07:04 GMT
Kazakh medics HIV trial under way
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Almaty

The trial of 21 medical workers who are allegedly linked to an outbreak of the HIV virus in the south of Kazakhstan is under way in the city of Shymkent.

A total of 92 children and 12 mothers have tested positive, and eight toddlers have died, since the HIV virus was found in blood banks in September.

Thousands continue to undergo tests, with new cases constantly emerging.

HIV cases in Kazakhstan have doubled each year since 2000. But the scale of this outbreak is unprecedented.

Six months on since the virus was first discovered in one of the blood banks of Shymkent, new cases continue to emerge on an almost daily basis.

After seven babies died following treatment and blood transfusions, President Nursultan Nazarbaev fired his health minister and ordered a criminal investigation.

As a result hundreds of doctors lost their jobs and the 21 medical workers were put on trial.

The charges they face, which they deny, range from recklessness to the re-use of disposable equipment and illegal trade in donor blood.

As the number of patients grows, so does the embarrassment this outbreak has caused.

Mr Nazarbaev prides himself on leading the most developed country in Central Asia, and it certainly is the richest.

The lack of health education, extreme poverty, prostitution and drugs that are prevalent in other countries of Central Asia - and seen as the main reasons for the growing HIV rates in the region - are less apparent in Kazakhstan.

Even so, Kazakhstan has a higher infection rate than any of its much poorer neighbours, and one of the main reasons for this may well be the deeply corrupt healthcare system that this incident has revealed.

Kazakhstan medics HIV trial opens
19 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Charges in Kazakh HIV scandal
26 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
HIV scandal hits Kazakh children
18 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Kazakhstan
16 Jan 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Kazakhstan
09 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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