Hundreds of patients residing around Unnao City in India might be infected with the deadly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after falling victim to a man who cycled around three villages for over a year, offering a “magic treatment” for 10 Indian rupees ($0.16).
The doctor has been identified as Rajendra Kumar, also known as Rajendra Yadav to the locals. Unlicensed physicians, known as ‘jhola chaap’ or ‘allopathic’ doctors, are a common find in poor and rural communities in India. None of the locals who used the man’s cheap treatment suspected any foul play.
“He was like an angel for us. Government doctors would prescribe medicine from outside, which cost us between Rs 100 and Rs 300, but his injection worked for just Rs 10. If we got good government health care, why would so many flock to Yadav,” a local resident told the Indian Express.
But the inexpensive treatment became a nightmare to dozens after they discovered they had been infected with one of the world’s most deadly viruses. Authorities already identified 33 people with HIV who allegedly contracted the virus due to Yadav’s treatment in Premgunj, Kareemuddin Nagar and Chakmeera localities.
“As of now, he is the one responsible for so many people catching HIV infection. There can be other reasons, but initial investigation puts the onus on him,” said SP Chowdhary, the chief medical officer for the city of Unnao, according to the Hindustan Times.
The 33 confirmed cases come from a screening of 566 people tested at government-organized HIV camps on January 24, 25 and 27, Choudhary noted. The camps were set up late last year after multiple suspected HIV cases showed up during routine tests at the district hospitals in Bangarmau.
“When we asked these patients whether they had used common syringes, some of them told us about a doctor they went to who uses the same syringe on all his patients,” Choudhary said.
“Patients have told us this man is about 35 years old and would go around on a bicycle, giving out pills and injections to treat colds, coughs and other ailments. He is a quack.”
According to reports, the purported doctor “vaccinated” at least 50 people a day using the same syringe. Yadav’s youngest victim is believed to be a six-year-old while most patients who have been infected are in their 1970’s.
“We are also conducting a mapping exercise and ensuring their treatment along with awareness. As far as the case of anyone giving injections without a license is concerned, strict action will be taken against them,” Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh said on Tuesday.
HIV can survive in syringes for up to four weeks. In higher temperatures (27-37°C) common in India the deadly virus becomes inactive within a week.
In India, 57.3 percent of ‘allopathic’ physicians do not have a medical qualification yet practice medicine in rural communities in the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) report on the Health Workforce in India published in 2016 revealed. Furthermore, the report found that 31.4 percent of such doctors only had a high school education.
Yadav has yet to be apprehended. When arrested the quack doctor could be charged with carrying out a negligent act likely to spread infection of diseases, voluntarily causing grievous harm by using dangerous weapons or means, and practicing medicine without having registration as a medical practitioner with the state government, Arun Pratap Singh, a Bangarmau police official, told Reuters.