An HIV infection scandal in Kazakhstan deepened Tuesday with the death of a ninth child who contracted the virus at a hospital due to negligence, an AIDS centre said.
The death came as a court began reading a verdict in a suit against 21 officials accused in the case for negligence, corruption and fraud. If sentenced they could face between four and nine years in prison.
The accused have all denied the charges over the infections at hospitals in Kazakhstan's southern Shymkent region. The case has rocked the country and claimed several scalps, including that of the health minister.
A total of 118 children and 14 mothers were infected with the virus that can lead to AIDS, mainly during blood transfusions. Often the medical equipment used was not sterilised properly.
"A ninth child, a two-year-old boy, died on Tuesday after contracting HIV at Shymkent's hospital for infectious diseases," a statement from the AIDS centre in the city said.
An investigation has revealed abysmal health standards at local hospitals in the country's south and the fact that people paid bribes to get safe blood transfusions.
Experts believe the first cases of HIV diagnosed among Kazakh children were probably contracted last spring during blood transfusions or from non-sterilised medical equipment.