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Islamabad: Dozens of backstreet surgeries have been closed and a doctor arrested after scores of people, including at least 75 children, were found to be infected with HIV in a Pakistani town.

Panic has spread through Ratodero, in Sindh province, after screening revealed large numbers carrying the virus. Health officials believe the re-use of dirty syringes led to it spreading.

Medical teams deployed after the first reports say they have since tested more than 2,400 people in the past week and found at least 98 positive. That number is likely to rise as testing continues, Dr Sikandar Ali, provincial programme manager for HIV/Aids Control, told The Daily Telegraph.

“It is very astonishing for us. Usually this disease is not of the general population and here we sadly see a lot of the general population is affected, which is alarming for us,” Dr Ali said.

A doctor at a public hospital in the area was earlier this week arrested and accused of passing the virus to patients. But the doctor, who himself claimed to be HIV positive, denied the charge.

Officials said they had also closed more than 20 premises run by “quacks” amid fears the re-use of syringes is behind the infections.