07ASTANA1796, KAZAKHSTAN: VERDICT IN HIV OUTBREAK TRIAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1796 2007-07-02 04:33 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0634
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHTA #1796 1830433
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020433Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9949
INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 7178
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 8040
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 2163
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 7943

UNCLAS ASTANA 001796 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR OES/PCI HUDAK AND SCA/CEN O'MARA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KHIV SOCI KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: VERDICT IN HIV OUTBREAK TRIAL 
 
REF: 06 ASTANA 205 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: A court in South Kazakhstan sentenced 
seventeen medical workers to prison terms of up to five years 
for their roles in infecting over 100 children with HIV. Four 
senior health officials, including the former head of the 
South Kazakhstan's Region health department Nursulu 
Tasmagambetova, received suspended sentences.  The families 
of the infected children expressed outrage at the verdict, 
calling the sentences too lenient.  Largely in response to 
the HIV outbreak in Shymkent, Kazakhstan has taken steps to 
improve its blood transfusion practices.  While the reform is 
sorely needed, the trial in Shymkent demonstrated that simple 
corruption is often the cause of Kazakhstani medical 
malpractice.  End summary. 
 
An Unpopular Verdict 
-------------------- 
 
2. (U) On June 27, a South Kazakhstan court convicted 21 
health care workers of negligence for their roles in an HIV 
outbreak in Shymkent. At least 118 children in the region 
have been infected as a result of transfusions of 
contaminated blood or through the use of unsterilized medical 
equipment (Reftel). Ten of the infected children have died. 
Seventeen medical workers were sentenced to jail terms 
ranging from nine months to five years.  Four senior health 
officials, including former regional health department head 
Nursulu Tasmagambetova, received suspended sentences. 
 
3. (SBU) Families of the infected children attacked the 
verdict, which marked the end of a trial that started in 
January.  The families were particularly critical of the 
suspended sentences for senior officials.  One parent told 
the local media that "those who got suspended sentences are 
the most senior ones and thus most responsible for all this." 
Forty medical workers in Shymkent also gathered in protest 
after the verdict. According to one speaker, "if 
Tasmagambetova has been given a suspended sentence, then 
others should have been released. She was the manager and the 
rest subordinates." (Comment: Former regional health 
department chief Nursulu Tasmagambetova is the sister of 
influential Almaty mayor Imangali Tasmagambetov. Before the 
trial, several sources predicted to Poloff that 
Tasmagambetova would receive a light sentence because of her 
connections. While her sentence may be a fair result in a 
case centered on low level corruption, many Kazakhstanis will 
view the verdict as further evidence of a two tiered system 
of justice.) 
 
Outbreak Spurs Reform, but Problems Deep-Rooted 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
4. (U) The HIV outbreak in Shymkent spurred Kazakhstan to 
reassess and improve its blood safety and transfusion 
procedures.  Investigations conducted across the country 
revealed that all 28 of the country's blood centers violated 
legal standards.  According to the director of the Republican 
Blood Center, 60 to 85% of the equipment at the centers is 
defunct.  Kazakhstan has since announced plans to launch a 
new safe blood transfusion program at a cost of 32 billion 
tenge (approximately $2.5 million).  The program calls for 
the resupply and reequipping of existing blood centers and 
the construction of several new centers, and a blood 
processing plant in Almaty. 
 
5. (U) While systematic reform is necessary, an underlying 
cause of the Shymkent outbreak was corruption.  According to 
prosecutors, local doctors, who earn an average of $175 a 
month, charged $30 for blood transfusions, sharing the 
profits between doctors and local blood banks.  Unnecessary 
blood transfusions have thus become a source of income for 
corrupt doctors.  One eight month old child in Shymkent 
received 24 blood transfusions, prescribed only to boost the 
child's immunity. 
 
6. (SBU) Comment: The HIV outbreak in Shymkent serves as a 
reminder that beyond the booming oil profits and glitz and 
glamour of Astana and Almaty, many Kazakhstanis still lack 
access to basic necessities like decent health care.  The GOK 
appears to understand the problem, and has announced plans to 
spend at least 4% of its GDP on public health in 2008-2010. 
End comment 
MILAS

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