23 March 2010

Uzbek HIV outbreak infects 147 toddlers

An AIDS outbreak at two children's hospitals in Uzbekistan has killed at least 14 children and left 133 infected with HIV, according to a documentary posted on a respected Central Asian news website on Monday.

The editor of Ferghana.ru said the 2007 outbreak was first reported in an official documentary produced by Uzbek prosecutors for government television.

But, he said, the video never aired because authorities had second thoughts about broadcasting it, fearing that it would provoke a public outcry and unfavourable international publicity.

The documentary posted on Ferghana.ru reported that 12 doctors and nurses at two hospitals in the eastern city of Namangan were convicted of treating the children with contaminated medical equipment.

According to the narrator, the health workers were sentenced to prison terms of from five years to eight years and eight months.

Uzbek officials, including prosecutors, did not return repeated phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The AP could not verify the authenticity of the documentary, which would be the first official confirmation of the long-rumoured outbreak, but a former Uzbek television producer said it appeared authentic.

Daniil Kislov, editor of Ferghana.ru, said his site obtained the video from an Uzbek health official after authorities cancelled plans to broadcast it.

Government officials keep a tight grip on the media in Uzbekistan, where President Islam Karimov has ruled for more than 20 years.

Several outbreaks of hospital-transmitted HIV have been reported among children in Central Asia in recent years. Doctors in the region have sometimes prescribed transfusions for routine illnesses.

Similar incidents in Kazakhstan in 2006 and Kyrgyzstan in 2007 left dozens of children infected.

The Uzbek documentary shows a series of men and women, identified as health workers, confessing and saying they deserved harsh sentences. All the interviewees spoke into a microphone with the logo of Uzbek state television.

"I am 1,000 times sorry," one of the nurses said through tears.

"I would not want a single nurse or doctor to repeat those mistakes."

There are also interviews with the mothers of some of the infected children, as well as with a prosecutor.

Ferghana.ru first reported the HIV outbreak in Namangan in October 2007, but at the time officials denied that it had occurred.

Kislov said the video was produced in January 2009, and was obtained from a Health Ministry official who demanded anonymity because he feared persecution by authorities.

"This is a genuine product of Uzbek television," said Alisher Komolov, who worked for the Yoshlar television channel until he left the country in 2006.

23 Mar 2010

Another exposed cover up by a government.

ALL governments cover up, it's just that not all the news is reported.