[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 3 22:00:10 UTC 2006
Dirty needles, dirty dealings----Documentary draws attention to the role
of hygiene in HIV transmission in Libya.
Experts argue over the importance of dirty needles in HIV transmission in
There are 2 accounts of how hundreds of children in a Libyan hospital
mysteriously contracted HIV in the late 1990s. One says unhygienic medical
practices fuelled the outbreak. The other argues that medical workers
murdered the children possibly in a plot sponsored by the CIA and Mossad,
the Israeli intelligence service.
Mickey Grant explores both accounts in his documentary Injection, which he
released last week for free viewing on the Internet. By releasing the film
now he hopes to bring attention to the plight of the 5 Bulgarian nurses
and the Palestinian doctor who face the death penalty in Libyan courts on
charges of intentionally infecting children. A verdict is expected soon
after the court adjourns on 31 October.
The free Internet release was necessary because, Grant says, he could find
no buyers for Injection upon its completion this year. This despite the
fact the film-maker has several widely seen documentaries under his belt,
including China Run, a film about the long-distance runner Stan Cottrell
that aired on HBO and in dozens of cinemas. "I couldn't figure out what it
was," says Grant. "Generally they said it looked negative, like it was
going to be an unpleasant story."
In one moving segment, Grant uses archive Bulgarian news footage in which
one of the accused nurses describes being jailed without knowing the
charges, confessing to murder under torture and then retracting her
Equally compelling are Grant's stories of the use of dirty needles in
Africa. One man tells how his family received injections of malaria
medicine from a single needle, transmitting HIV from one member to
another. Grant also interviews the owner of a clinic in a slum in Nairobi,
Kenya, who sells non-sterile, loose, used needles; the film traces the
source to a city dump, where children scavenge for needles from trucks
arriving from the city hospital.
>From such anecdotal evidence it seems clear that unhygienic medical
practices are rife in Africa. Grant also relays rumours that Muammar
Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, had cut off the delivery of medical supplies
to this hospital in response to a failed assassination attempt in the
The notion that poor hygiene was a problem at the Libyan hospital concurs
with a major scientific report by Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute
in Paris, France, and Vittorio Colizzi, an AIDS researcher at the
University of Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that dirty needles account
for 2.5% of transmissions in sub-Saharan Africa, and many independent
experts concur. But Grant claims that this is a vast underestimate, made
in part out of fear of scaring Africans away from medical care. Some
studies point to figures as high as 40%, Grant says in the film. But it is
hard to assess the argument, with little evidence for the WHO figures
presented in the documentary.
Colizzi told news at nature.com that he agrees the WHO underplays the problem
of dirty needles in Africa. "If more attention were paid to this issue,
the tenor of the trial in Libya might be different," he says.
While Colizzi's study suggested that unhygienic medical practices were
involved with the Libyan HIV outbreak, he says is not clear to what extent
dirty needles, unsafe invasive procedures or other unhygienic procedures
were responsible. He says he would have liked to see this explored more
thoroughly in the film.
Grant says he would have liked that too, but politics kept him from
delving too deeply into this particular case. Grant's bleak footage of
himself alone in Libyan hotel rooms, while officials are apparently
stymying his attempts to film in the country, tells a vivid story.
"Gaddafi is a dangerous man," says Grant, who says he was followed by
government officials during his time there. "Everything in Libya revolves
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