Kazakh health workers jailed in HIV+ infants case
By Maria Golovnina Wednesday, June 27,
2007; 12:26 PM
SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - A Kazakh court jailed more than
a dozen health workers on Wednesday for infecting 78 babies with
HIV/AIDS but provoked parents' outrage for sparing senior
Ten babies have died as a result of being infected.
A group of medical workers went on trial in the southern city of
Shymkent in January on charges of criminal negligence for
allowing the children to be infected, mainly through blood
transfusions in hospitals.
Campaigners accuse the oil-producing former Soviet state of
doing too little to improve hospitals, raise medical standards
and root out discrimination against HIV-positive patients.
In a Soviet-style courtroom adorned with a portrait of Kazakh
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, relatives shouted "They deserve
death!" after the judge gave suspended sentences to senior
health official Nursulu Tasmagambetova, among others.
"This is not what I call justice," said Kanat Alseitov, whose
son was among the infected children. "I didn't think it would be
this way. Those who got suspended sentences are the most senior
ones and thus most responsible for all this."
Most defendants -- doctors and health officials -- received jail
sentences ranging from a few months to eight years.
After the verdict, the relatives, mostly women in headscarves
and traditional colorful clothes, scuffled with police shouting
"Death!" and "What for?" as those convicted looked on.
Some fell to the floor in fits of extreme emotion. A court
doctor took the pulse of a woman in her 30s who seemed
unconscious. Relatives threw stones and plastic bottles at a
police van that drove the convicted people away.
The case has exposed the vulnerability of HIV patients in
Kazakhstan, where the World Bank says the number of registered
cases has almost doubled every year since 2000. As the trial
went on, the number of infected babies rose to 118.
Judge Ziyadinkhan Pirniyaz listed evidence of negligence, theft
of health funds and the abuse of patients. He said many babies
received transfusions without their parents' consent.
The victims' lawyers said they would appeal against the
The relatives, most of whom did not want to give their names for
fear of stigma, described sparing senior officials jail terms --
including Tasmagambetova, the sister of the powerful mayor of
the financial capital Almaty -- as a slap in the face.
They said state healthcare payments were not enough for them to
provide for the future of their HIV-infected children.
"I think the court had its own intentions," Alseitov said. "For
such violations, criminals must get much more serious