Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

October 2, 2006

Nature review of ‘Infection!’ documentary

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 6:41 pm has a review up this evening of Mickey Grant’s documentary on the six medics risking execution in Libya on concocted charges of infecting 426 children with HIV. You will remember that Mickey made his full length 1h22min documentary free on Google Video last week to help the blog campaign requesting that Libya’s courts order an independent international scientific assessment of the case, so that the medics’ innocence can be proven.

A few excerpts from the article (another review, by US science blogger Javier Pavos, is available here)

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 confession.

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.

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… agrees that 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.

To see other blog coverage — over 170 posts — of the Tripoli Six case, click here.

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