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More HIV-Infected Children Found In Southern Kazakhstan

October 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A senior Kazakh health official has reported another rise in the number of children infected in hospital with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

The chief of the South Kazakhstan Regional Health Department, Viachelsav Dudnik, said the number of children infected by HIV-tainted blood in southern Kazakhstan had now reached 133.

Most of the children have been infected with HIV in two major children hospitals in Shymkent, located in South Kazakhstan Province. It is thought that many were infected by the reuse of needles that had been tainted with the disease or had been given a transfusion of tainted blood.

The scandal surrounding the infection of the children -- several of whom have since died of AIDS -- initially broke in 2006 and caused fear among parents whose children had undergone treatment at the medical facilities.

Kazakh Minister of Health Protection Erbolat Dosaev was fired in connection with the incident, and several medical workers were sentenced to prison terms.

However, government critics say that Kazakh authorities have not taken enough measures to help the victims.

Sagadat Masagurov is the former head of a Shymkent-based nongovernmental organization, Protection for Our Kids from AIDS.

Masagurov told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that the government has not kept its promise to support the children who have fallen victim to medical workers' negligence.

"In general, for the government this issue is like a closed book now," he said. "It just turned into a routine issue, that's all. We have predicted that in a half a year everybody would forget it. That seems to be true. Nobody wants to hear or discuss the issue of the compensation that is due [for the victims and relatives of the victims]."

It was Masagurov's NGO that brought the Shymkent incident to the public's attention.

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