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25th February 2015

A mother’s nightmare: HIV from dirty needles

The injections were meant to make them better. Instead, it gave this mother and her four children a dreaded disease from which they will never recover.


Credit: BBC News Health

In Cambodia, health services are stretched. Finding a doctor and getting quality care in rural areas is a major challenge for families like this one.

That is how the mother in the beginning of this video came to use an unlicensed doctor who administered medicines using dirty needles. He was the only provider she could find.

The ‘doctor’ was reusing a syringe which had been previously used on someone living with HIV.

Avoidable tragedy

Tainted needles like this are spreading diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Imagine the horror of learning that by trying to get the best care possible for your children, you had handed them a life sentence.

The real tragedy of this story – which is sadly not uncommon in developing countries – is that it is avoidable. Yet millions are put in danger unnecessarily.

A number of ingenious ‘smart syringes’ have been developed which are impossible to reuse. For example, try to reuse the LifeSaver Syringe, designed by Marc Koska, and it will simply ‘auto-disable’ – it will break.

Koska, the inventor of the “smart” syringes, says his single-use syringe is the same price as a normal needle and syringe.


Credit: SafePointTrust

And here’s the good news: by switching from common syringes which can be reused to single-use syringes, countless lives could be saved. The World Health Organization has announced its backing for ‘smart syringes‘ and that all countries will make the switch by 2020.

This promises to end the needless misery caused by dirty needles in the world’s poorest countries. A simple solution to a global problem.