Uzbek babies infected with AIDS17th November 2008
Health officials in Uzbekistan say that more than 40 young children have been infected with HIV at a hospital in the east of the country.
Authorities in the eastern town of Namangan are carrying out an investigation after it was found that the children, mostly newborn babies, were carrying the virus.
The news comes after nine Kyrgyz doctors were found guilty of infecting 24 children with HIV in August. Last year, 21 Kazakh medics were convicted of infecting nearly 50 babies with HIV.
Central Asian countries have some of the fastest-growing HIV infection rates in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Lack of public awareness, a large migrant labour force, poor medical hygiene, intravenous drug use and unprotected sex are cited as the main reasons.
The government has so far flatly denied that poor hospital hygiene could be behind the latest wave of infections, which are often blamed on unsafe blood supplies and contaminated equipment.
Staff in the Kazakh and Kyrgyz cases all pleaded not guilty to infecting the children, citing poor hygiene conditions were behind the infections.
The Uzbek HIV babies first came to light last month. The case has now been referred to prosecutors.
Local media, which is subject to tight controls by the government, has yet to report the story.
Many cases of HIV/AIDS go unreported in countries where secrecy and social stigma surround the virus, especially when those infections are hospital-acquired.
Jimmy Kolker, a senior UN official on HIV/Aids, called on Central Asian governments in July to record and share their information on cases.
He was speaking at a meeting in Uzbekistan, which was discussing how to tackle a regional epidemic of HIV among women and children.
Around 1.5 million people in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia were living with HIV in 2007, 110,000 of whom became infected that year, with 58,000 dying of AIDS.
Significant numbers of people with HIV live in Belarus (13,000), Kazakhstan (12,000) and Uzbekistan (16,000).
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