Last Wednesday, Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro, a pediatrician, was suspended from his practice after accusations that his reuse of syringe needles caused an outbreak of H.I.V. in the small city of Ratodero, Pakistan. To date, there are around 1,200 known H.I.V. infections to have occurred among Ghangro’s patients, 900 of which are children.
H.I.V. is a virus that causes a drastic weakening of the immune system. It is spread via contact with body fluids from an infected individual, or in this case, the reuse of hypodermic needles. In spite of being dangerous and harmful, the reuse of syringe needles occurs all over the world.
“The reuse of needles is very common in general, but actually not only in third-world countries. It happens in the United States as well. Thirty to forty percent of Hepatitis cases come from needle reuse, twenty percent of new HIV infections come from needle reuse.” said Dr. Hyun Kim, professor of Integrative Health & Physical Science.
This outbreak is not an isolated incident, and is the product of the drastically under-resourced healthcare system in Pakistan.
“Third-world healthcare needs to be improved. That depends not only upon the third-world countries, but also the first-world countries that need to step in and be good human beings and take care of other people.” said Brooke Longman (‘21).
There are many factors to consider when studying third-world healthcare systems and determining where they require resources. Some argue that a lack of health education is to blame.
“There might not be enough access to education for those who practice, and at the same time, not enough access to those who receive care.” said Dr. Kim.
In addition to a lack of education, many Pakistan civilians lack basic sanitation equipment, which causes detrimental effects to their health.
“There’s not a lot of awareness of basic healthcare essentials. It’s our responsibility to help them with that when they don’t have the knowledge or the resources available there to improve their healthcare system or basic hygiene practices” said Isabella Binkley (‘21).
In spite of all of the issues among the healthcare system in Pakistan, hasty intervention may be more detrimental than helpful. Intervening in healthcare affairs requires an approach of cultural relativity and willingness to understand the perspectives of healthcare providers.
“To improve the healthcare of third-world countries, we want to understand the religion and culture of the country as a whole so we can better communicate with their government to work on national healthcare policy.” said Dr. Kim.
Working with third-world legislators on creating national healthcare policy is vital to change among the failing healthcare systems. Without legislation and policy, any efforts made to improve the healthcare system might not be upheld.
“Pakistan has a lack of social support from the government. Until that changes, there will be a lack of healthcare service. There will still be a lack of infrastructure. If there’s no support from the government, the whole new system isn’t going to work, even though we’re trying to help them out.” said Dr. Kim.
In spite of the obstacles in place, assisting third-world countries in establishing national healthcare policy and improving health-related education available to both practitioners and civilians is vital.
“It’s our responsibility to help them with that when they don’t have the knowledge or the resources available there to improve their healthcare system or basic hygiene practices.” said Binkely.