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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 17:38 GMT
Kyrgyzstan rocked by HIV scandal
Babies infected with HIV
HIV infection of children is often stigmatised
Fourteen medical workers in Kyrgyzstan have been charged with malpractice and negligence after 42 children were infected with HIV.

The health workers, from the southern Osh region, are accused of negligence while administering injections and blood transfusions.

A spate of infections of HIV, the virus that causes Aids, has shocked the central Asian republic.

Kyrgyzstan has about 1,500 people with HIV out of a population of 5 million.

Those accused include doctors, nurses and a chief administrator. If convicted they face prison terms of between five and 10 years.

The BBC's Natalia Antelava in Almaty, in neighbouring Kazakhstan, points out that this is not the first such case in central Asia, and says the outbreak shows a dangerous trend of hospitals becoming the cause, rather than the cure, of infectious diseases across the region.

Concern over conditions

Last year, 21 medical workers were sentenced to prison terms for infecting 150 children with HIV in Kazakhstan.

The Kyrgyz case has deepened public concern over conditions in hospitals and the quality of health workers.

At least 30 other children tested positive for HIV since the investigation into the outbreak first began last summer, and new cases continue to emerge all the time.

The outbreak is surrounded by secrecy and confusion.

Our correspondent reports that in this predominantly Muslim and deeply traditional region, HIV care is an enormous stigma, and families are extremely protective of the identity of their children.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one international aid worker in Kyrgyzstan said that this stigma and the atmosphere of secrecy meant that outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections were extremely common, but most of them simply did not get reported.

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