They included 27 women, 14 men and a seven-year-old girl. “Realising the gravity of the situation, we called another team from Lahore,” District Health Officer Dr Musthaq Bashir told. “The team from Lahore collected blood samples from over 100 residents and sent them to a laboratory. We are still waiting for the results,” he added.
The official said though the blood strip samples had tested positive, the health department would be able to reach a conclusion once the results from the laboratory in Lahore came in.
Jamil Ahmad, a resident, told media that HIV was spreading in the village.
Qaiser, another resident of Bhatti Wala Village said, “When the health officials took my strip test, I was declared HIV positive. However, when I went to a private laboratory and had my blood tested, the report turned out to be negative.”
He said five members of his family had also been tested positive for HIV after the health officials conducted strip tests at the camp.
“We are facing the worst crisis of our lives. The health department has shown an irresponsible attitude by declaring us HIV positive without confirming the reports.”
Other residents also complained that the health officials had declared them HIV positive and their friends and relatives had started “doubting their character”.
Taking notice of the complaints, Chiniot Health Department CEO Dr Mahar Akhtar Hussain Baloch and District Health Officer Dr Mushtaq Bashir rushed to the area.
The strip tests were conducted again and the residents still tested positive for the virus.
Speaking on the outbreak, Dr Akhtar Hussain told that the media would be informed about the situation as soon results from the laboratory in Lahore were obtained.
“It’s a misconception that HIV is contracted because of sexual contact only. It also spreads if an infected blood syringe or shaving blade is used. The use of infected blood in a transfusion also causes it,” he added.
“We have already sealed over half a dozen barber shops in the area. The situation in Chiniot will improve within a week.”