Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ok... it's my turn now...

Seems like many of the bloggers are posting about the Bulgarian nurses and the Libyan AIDS tragedy. Over the years I've been watching the events unfold and I am torn.

On the one hand, there are the nurses and the doctor who most probably could have been injecting people with infected needles. During the years of the sanctions when medical supplies were hard to find it is highly likely that needles were being reused. But then the sanctions did not prohibit the import of medical supplies... the fact that Libya was lacking was a local issue, not an international one. It was just so easy to blame the sanctions for not bothering to make sure there were properly stocked hospitals and medical centres. Regardless of whether there were enough needles or not, the nurses and doctors should have refused to ever reuse a needle. Did they? I am not sure if they did or not.

On the other hand, was it needles that caused the infection or something else? Hospitals in Libya both then and now are filthy places. I visited Tripoli Medical Centre just last week and found it no better than a sewer. There are more ways to get HIV and AIDS than by needles alone. Transfer could happen by any unsterilized surface and the presence of body fluids. Could it be solely the responsibility of the nurses to make sure entire hospitals and other medical facilities are kept scrupulously clean? Aren't the people who oversee the managerial side of things at the hospital responsible for making sure the hospitals are kept maintained? It is common even today to see broken plumbing fixtures and pipes, overflowing garbage cans, dirty sheets, bedding and every other surface that patients could come in contact with. If these areas are so visibly dirty than what does the rest of the hospital look like? The labs, the theatres, are these spaces just as disgustingly dirty?

Some bloggers have made statements about the personal behaviors of foreign guest workers in Libya - saying they are uncaring and racist. In my personal experience I have only come across one nurse that fit that profile - all others that I have met or dealt with have been hard working, dedicated and caring individuals. Most of these guest workers come here to make money to send to their families back home. They work long hours with difficult conditions and have to deal with more patients than is almost humanly possible to care for due to under-staffing. They look at Libya as a way to get ahead in their lives - a sacrifice to earn some money to advance themselves somehow. And if you speak to most of the nurses here you will find that most all of them work for nearly a year before they even see a cent of their salaries. Their wages I suspect are misappropriated... sigh..

If the nurses and the doctor did in fact intentionally cause patients to become infected with the AIDS virus then I am all for making sure they are punished for it. But in my humble opinion, after my own personal Libyan hospital and medical experiences, I find it hard to believe they are solely responsible.


  1. Thanks for posting about this subject. Let us assume, for the sake of your argument, that the infection was caused by reusing of needles, carelessness, and uncleaness in Libyan hospitals and community. My question, after all that, will be of how on earth that all the kids infected are either visited or admitted to Benghazi Children Hospital where those nurses and doctors worked. Why not from the other dirty unclean libyan hospitals or community as you putting it to. This does not mean that I dirctly accuse them but just wondering about what exactly happened in that hospital ?


  2. and add to that the fact that the aids microbes die almost immediately once out of their warm fluid environment. these are not germs that can just hang out on filth and wait for someone to bump into them. they would have to be freshly out of one body and straight into an opening in someone's skin. Allahu alaam.

  3. "Ok... it's my turn now..."

    Khadija, your comment should have been posted on Anglo - Libyan blog not on your blog. You are aware there is a discussion going on Anglo- Libyan blog on the same topic for the last 2 weeks. Why do I have to juggle between 2 blogs regarding the same topic.


  4. yes hiv is difficult to pass on to another person but not imposible. shared needles is the easiest way for hiv to be passed on. it sounds like many of the hospitals in libya have problems with supplies. in several of the blogs i have read it seems like libyan hospitals have a problem with basic cleanliness. either one of these problems can cause germs to move from person to person. just these children coming in for their basic shots could have passed the virus fromm one child to the next. its unfortunate that we will never really know what happened. its also unfortunate that the hospitals that these workers worked in did not have the basics for th children they have to care for. hugs holly and the kids

  5. But why almost all the HIV/AIDS patients are from Benghazi Children hospital not from the other 'dirty/unclean' libyan hospitals. For your information Benghazi children hospital ranks as one of the cleanest compared to the other libyan hospitals during that that time as a matter of fact. They cought the nurses and the doctor because they were always on duty whenever almost all the kids have visited or admitted to the hospital according to the rota in the hospital.

  6. First of all it is sad to hear this tragidy, for the children, thier families and nurses. No body but allah knows the truth,and
    the only ones who are 100% innocent are the children.
    we are in debet to those sincer, hard working staff who came to look after us from all over the world. Bulgarian people are our frindes and they are good people with good reputation.
    but for those nurses there is serious Q! as mentioned by previous artical and we all need the truth.

  7. You don´t contract AIDS in such a scale by living in a filthy compartment; you can get all kinds of diseases from filthy hospitals but very rarely the AIDS virus.
    AIDS need bodily contact or direct fluid contact such as syringes or blood in blood contact before it is transferred to an individual.
    We are speaking here of almost 500 kids being infected in a short period.
    But you are absolutely right; we don´t know what happened, and I have a hard time believing anyone would contaminate 468 children on purpose. Maybe it was negelectance and carelessness, and I still doubt such carelessness happens when the staff is caring. The trial showed what kind of attitude the five nurses displayed towards Libyans - that was causing my anger and reminding me of former experiences.

  8. Teri,
    I ditto Safia that to infect that number of children on purpose is too hard to absorb.
    Its all a mise en scene where the innocent ,in this case children, sad to say ,are to suffer.

    My heart goes out to the children's parents as they have to watch them die slowly .

    May Allah / God give grant all the serenity to accept the things they cannot change. Courage to change the things they can and wisdom to know the difference.

  9. I am afraid that I agree with Teri.
    To blame the staff is really an easy way out. Just finding someone to blame is not the answer. It seems that the Libyan government is investigating the Libyan government in this case. Naturally they would prefer to find that "outsiders" are to blame for their trouble. It is a whole lot easier and cheaper that way. If they found it was a national problem their only option would be to up date the hospitals to modern standards and that would be costly and embarrassing. Perhaps the Libyan government might do well to hire a international team of medical investigators to examine the conditions in the medical institutions of Libya.

    I think people who disagree with blogs and want to post their alternative opinion should sign their post. It is only fair!!

  10. What nobody has seemed to bring up is whether or not blood used in transfusions in Libya (at that time as well as now) was actually tested for the presence of diseases before being given to another patient. Back in the days before blood was routinely screened for not only the HIV/AIDS virus, but other serious pathogens, patients here were infected with those diseases. Now, blood is ALWAYS tested, both at the time it's taken and then again before it's given to a patient, and the donor is given a long questionnaire to find out if they've engaged in any risky behaviors-- if even ONE is a "yes", then the donor is not allowed to donate blood, even if they're disease free.

    Shocking that a public hospital anywhere in the world could have the same sanitary standards as a sewer... one would think that something would've been learned from this tragedy and done something about it, especially considering that The Leader's own wife is (or was) a nurse (whether or not the widely circulated tale of how the two of them met is true or not remains a mystery!)... it's just an all around tragedy, where truly everyone is a victim.

  11. Uh, even if they were guilty (and I don't think they were) -- would they deserved to be tortured and raped? I think you are watering down the issue to appease people around you.


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