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Police say that the accused Dr Muzaffar Ghanghar, who himself is an HIV patient, is employed at a public hospital in Ratodero district of Larkana. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: A doctor has been arrested in Pakistan on charges of spreading HIV amongst patients.

Police say that the accused Dr Muzaffar Ghanghar, who himself is an HIV patient, is employed at a public hospital in Ratodero district of Larkana – hometown of Bhutto family in Sindh province.

Police have arrested the doctor on Tuesday as he is suspected to be responsible for spreading the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Panic gripped the area early this month when the number of HIV-positive cases rose to 39 including more than a dozen children. The doctor’s arrest came after the authorities tried to ascertain the causes behind the spread of the virus among the residents, according to Geo TV.

Twenty-two children are among the patients diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes the deadly AIDS disease which claimed a million lives worldwide.

However, Dr Ghanghar denied the charges against him and termed the case a "conspiracy" against him. He said that he was not aware of his condition.

"The Sindh Healthcare Commission is conspiring against me. If I had known about [HIV/AIDS] then I would have sought treatment," he said.

Dr Sikander Memon, in-charge of the Aids Control Programme in Sindh, said a team will arrive in Ratodero next week to determine the causes behind the transmission of the HIV among the residents.

According to an estimate by Dr Memon, there are estimated to be more than 100,000 HIV-positive people in Sindh province which is ruled by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). However, the Aids Control Programme has only 10,350 registered patients who are provided treatment.

Larkana continues to top the list of districts most affected by HIV in Sindh, with the total number of AIDS patients in Larkana at more than 2,400.

According to WHO, Pakistan is registering approximately 20,000 new HIV infections annually, the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region.

The international body says mortality among Pakistanis living with the virus, which causes the deadly AIDS disease, is also rising, in spite of the availability of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.

The latest government figures show that only 16 percent of the estimated 150,000 people living with HIV had been tested and only 9 percent have access to lifesaving treatment.

"The remaining 135,000 people are walking around in the communities as carriers of (HIV) infection who are ready to transmit infections to those who are not infected, even to their unborn babies," Dr. Saima Paracha of the National AIDS Control Program, told media recently.

Officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among the key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients and men who have sex with men.

Official estimates show that Pakistan has seen a 45 percent increase in new HIV infections since 2010

In total, 76.1 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV, since the epidemic started in the 1980s. Some 35 million have died.

As yet, there is no HIV vaccine or cure, and infected people rely on lifelong anti-retroviral therapy to stop the virus replicating.

Without treatment, HIV-infected people go on to develop AIDS, a syndrome that weakens the immune system and leaves the body exposed to opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, and some types of cancer.

Treatment carries side-effects and is costly, but allows infected people to be healthier for longer.