Denial by government of the nature, consequences or means of transmission of HIV has had a devastating impact on health providers and their patients throughout the world. In China, for example, Ma Shiwen, a leading health official in China's AIDS-stricken Henan province, was arrested in August 2003 for leaking documents to the public about a government-sponsored blood-selling program in which tens of thousands of villagers became HIV-positive through blood transfusions.
Worse yet, in Libya, doctors and nurses became scapegoats for the lack of an effective AIDS policy. In 1999 about 400 children in a Tripoli hospital tested positive for HIV. The government accused 16 health professionals, including five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician, of deliberately infecting the children. The Libyan health professionals were charged only with negligence, and all were eventually acquitted. The foreign health workers were accused of "attacking the security of the state," as well as intentionally killing the youths. The six were imprisoned, denied access to anyone from the outside world for over 10 months, tortured, forced to give false confessions and in some cases raped. They met with lawyers for the first time only after the trial began.
After five years of incarceration, the doctor and nurses working in Libya finally had a chance to defend themselves and demonstrated that the virus was transmitted by the lack of sound infection controls in the hospital. Professor Luc Montagnier, the co-discoverer of HIV, testified that infections at the hospital likely began before the defendants arrived at the hospital and also continued to spread after they were arrested. He also found practices that would increase transmission, including the re-use of unsterilized needles. Despite the expert testimony, the doctor and nurses were nevertheless convicted and sentenced to death in May 2004.
Appeals from physicians around the world, organized by Physicians for Human Rights and others, protested the fairness of the trial, the verdict and the death sentences. In December 2004, the Libyan government announced that the six health professionals would not be executed but demanded that Bulgaria compensate the families of the victims for their losses and reimburse the hospital for the cost of treatment. Bulgaria has refused, and the six remain imprisoned.
Sorta makes you wonder if ignoring science in the service of political nonsense is a bug or a feature.
Not that it makes much of a difference if you're dead.
Way to convince humanitarians to help keep people from dying.