Bulgaria Set To Provide Equipment, Medicine To Libya in Effort To Free Health Workers Accused of Infecting Children With HIV
Bulgaria is prepared to send equipment and medicine to Libya to help the country's fight against HIV/AIDS, as part of Bulgaria's efforts to help free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician sentenced to death for allegedly infecting 400 Libyan children with HIV, a government official said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 9/7). The workers were sentenced to death by firing squad in May 2004 for allegedly infecting the children through contaminated blood products. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. Many HIV/AIDS experts say that the infections likely are the result of the Libyan Health Ministry's failure to screen blood products adequately and poor sterilization practices at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya, where the children were infected. Libya's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on Nov. 15 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/19). Bulgaria has refused to pay compensation to the children's families, saying that the health care workers are innocent. Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Kyuchukov on Wednesday said that the country "will cover 24 of 40 items" requested by Libyan officials. He added that the actions are part of Bulgaria's efforts to create "a favorable atmosphere" ahead of the November trial (Associated Press, 9/7).
In related news, the European Union on Tuesday began providing Libya with policy and technical advice on how to fight HIV/AIDS, as part of an action plan that includes upgrading the Benghazi Centre for Infectious Diseases and Immunology to international standards, AFP/Business in Africa Online reports (AFP/Business in Africa Online, 9/7). The European Commission on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with Libyan authorities to immediately implement the HIV Action Plan for Benghazi, which was launched by the European Union in November 2004 (European Commission release, 9/6). Under the plan, the EU will provide specialist advice on how to treat HIV-positive patients, systems for safe blood transfusion, laboratory analysis, hospital management and social reintegration of HIV-positive people and their families into society. Although the EU said the plan has nothing to do with the health care workers' case, experts say the assistance likely will affect the trial (Sofia News Agency, 9/6).