An investigation into a spurt of HIV infection cases in a village found that several villagers who went to Rajendra Yadav, a quack in Unnao district for treatment were treated with the same needle

A local quack in Uttar Pradesh has infected 21 villagers with the deadly HIV virus by injecting them with infected needles and contaminated syringes, highlighting the threat unqualified medics pose in villages of this most populated state of India.

The incident was reported in Bangarmau in Unnao district, 45 km south west of Lucknow, where the officials have identified the quack Rajendra Yadav who had given injections to villagers. An FIR has been registered against him but he could not be arrested so far.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Sushil Choudhury told this reporter on telephone from Unnao that the quack used to treat patients with common cold, cough, pains and diarrhea. “The villagers said that he used to give injections and have rarely seen him change the needle. This probably has lead to the spread of HIV,” he said.

Doctor says that the quack used to go to village after village on his bicycle and used to treat patients under trees. Villagers said that he used to give injections for almost all ailments and used to charge ₹10.

Healthcare facilities in villages are very poor and villagers go to these quacks without realising whether they are qualified to practice medicine. The unqualified medical practitioners treat minor ailments with injections of antibiotics, painkillers or steroids.

“Eyebrows were raised when there was sudden spurt in HIV cases in that region. In 2017, 12 cases of HIV against 27 suspected cases were found, which was a bit on the higher side considering the fact that Bangarmau is a small hamlet. Investigation showed that almost of them have taken injection from one person,” he said.

“This was an important lead. We set up special medical camps in villages that comes under Bangarmau and checked 566 people, of whom 21 were found HIV positive. Most of the cases are from Premganj and Chakmirapur villages,” Dr Chaudhury said. “We have widened our net and are now checking all patients who have received injections from Rajendra Yadav. The number of HIV patients could go up,” he stated.

Mehtab Alam, Project Manager of Raza Hussain Memorial Charitable Trust, an NGO that works with HIV and AIDS patients in Unnao and adjoining areas including Bangarmau said that quacks do not use disposable syringes. They use glass syringes and use one needle to inject hundreds of patients.

“Villagers are ignorant about [medical] hygiene. The quacks generally wash syringes and needle with water in front of villagers and use them giving an impression that washing with water make these syringes and needles safe,” he said.

Mehtab said it is also being investigated whether the spurt in HIV cases is due to greater movement of truck drivers, who are a target community of HIV intervention programmes, in the area. This is Bangarmau lies between the Agra-Lucknow expressway to the north and the Delhi-Kolkata national highway at Kanpur to the south. “This is a matter of investigation as how the said needle got infected with HIV which later transmitted disease to other patients,” he said.