ASTANA, Sep 19 (Reuters) Negligence in a blood transfusion centre led to the death of four babies in Kazakhstan and the infection of at least 55 children and one adult with the HIV virus, the Health Ministry said.
The children, and a mother, have been infected in the past few months in a hospital in the south of the Central Asian state. Officials have been looking for more than a dozen donors suspected of giving infected blood.
''All our working groups, commissions and independent experts confirm what took place: negligence and failure to comply with medical norms,'' the ministry spokesman Moris Abdulin said yesterday.
''Questions of safety took second place in the blood centre.'' The number of infected children, aged between two months and 10 years old, has been gradually rising as officials test children for HIV in the region around the city of Shymkent.
Police are investigating the deaths and infections but no charges have yet been brought.
HIV/AIDS infection levels have increased dramatically across Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, mainly among drug addicts and in prisons.
REUTERS LL HS1006