Accusations Against Medical Workers Charged With Infecting Libyan Children With HIV Attempt To Cover Up Poor Medical System, Editorial Says
The accusations against five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor charged with infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV are "an attempt to deflect Libyans' attention from the shocking state of their own medical system," a Washington Post editorial says (Washington Post, 10/29). The six medical workers were sentenced to death by firing squad in May 2004 for allegedly infecting 426 children through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay a total of $1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. The Libyan Supreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers' convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court. The health workers say they are innocent of the charges, claiming that they were forced to confess and that they were tortured by Libyan officials during interrogations. A retrial of the medical workers is expected on Oct. 31 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/26). According to the editorial, the evidence against the medical workers is "flimsy," and the prosecution has based its case in the new trial on a report that Western medical experts have said contains "no real evidence." In addition, the Libyan court has "refused" to consider an investigation conducted by two well-known European HIV/AIDS experts that shows the virus spread because of "poor hospital hygiene," the editorial says. If Libya continues with "this travesty of justice, it will be saying that it prefers to scapegoat foreigners rather than admit to the weakness of its own medical system," the editorial says, concluding that Libyans "need a government with the honesty to confront the true causes of HIV infections" (Washington Post, 10/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.