French Minister Proposes Release of Bulgarian Nurses Accused of Infecting Children With HIV in Libya; Libyan Minister Says It Was Not Discussed
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Thursday traveled to Tripoli, Libya, to discuss a proposal with Libyan Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Shalgham to release five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician who are in jail for allegedly infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV, AFP/Tocqueville Connection reports (AFP/Tocqueville Connection, 1/5). However, Shalgham after their meeting said they did not discuss release of the health care workers, adding that Douste-Blazy visited to discuss economic relations, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 1/5). A Libyan court in May 2004 sentenced six medical workers to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting the children through contaminated blood products. However, the Libyan Supreme Court on Dec. 25, 2005, overturned the convictions and ordered a lower court to retry the case. 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. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming they were forced to confess, and they have said they have been tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations. Libyan Justice Minister Ali Hasnaw said the new trial will be held "in one month" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3). In addition to releasing the nurses and the doctor, Douste-Blazy's plan would include treating the most "gravely ill" of the Libyan children in France and enhancing training and equipment at Al Fateh, according to AFP/Tocqueville Connection. "France has decided to do all it can to ease the suffering -- that of the families, that of the children and that of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor," he said (AFP/Tocqueville Connection, 1/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.