Over 20 people have tested positive for HIV after being treated for colds, coughs, and diarrhea by a fake doctor using contaminated needles and syringes.
The outbreak occurred in a northern Indian town where they’re experiencing a shortage of licensed medical professionals.
Authorities on Tuesday were searching for Rajendra Yadav, who they suspect has fled Bagarmau, a small town in the northern state of Utter Pradesh, said chief medical officer to the Unnao District, Sushil Choudhury.
Twenty-one cases of the virus were confirmed during government-organized screening camps at the end of January, according to Choudhary. The camps were set up after several suspected HIV cases showed up amid routine testing at district hospitals late last year, he said.
Choudhary added he’s unsure how many of the confirmed cases are directly related to Yadav. Those who have so far tested positive are being treated at a government college in Kanpur Uttar Pradesh.
Villagers in the area said they rarely saw the fake doctor change his needles, which is likely what prompted the spread of HIV.
The small outbreak comes amid a massive shortage of doctors and hospitals in india. The lack of proper care has prompted many to seek out fake doctors for cheap treatment.
Mehtab Alam, a project manager for Raza Hussain Memorial Charitable Trust, said fake doctors do not use disposable syringes, instead using glass syringes with a single need to inject hundreds of patients.
“Villagers are ignorant about hygiene,” he explained.
india at the end of 2016 had an estimated 2.1 million people living with HIV, according to UNAIDS. Of those, 9,100 were children under the age of 15.
Still, india has registered a 20% annual decline in new cases over the past few years, according to the report.