A lot of Americans seem puzzled about why NATO is so eager to get rid of Khadafi in Libya. Yes, he was behind the TWA bombing, but why get rid of him now?

But what the US press also misses is why Libyans are angry. To paraphrase James Carville: It’s the corruption, stupid. Khadafi has billions in his bank accounts, but ordinary citizens have to tolerate a corrupt and inefficient system every day.

One small example of this is the HIV epidemic that infected children in the late 1990’s.

The LATimes quotes parents saying now that Khadafi is getting thrown out, maybe they will find the real truth on how and why their children got infected with HIV.

Back in the late 1990’s, 400 kids in one hospital came down with HIV. It was a terrible tragedy.

But the government of Libya responded in a curious and horrific way: They had show trials of the doctors and nurses who worked in the hospital,  blaming the foreign medical personnel, mainly from Bulgaria or Italy as killers who deliberately injected the children with HIV.

Yet some of the kids got the disease before the foreigners were working at the hospital, but never mind. They needed a scapegoat.

But not everyone believed the government.

Conspiracy theories flourished. One theory is that they were using the children to develop an HIV vaccine, which is nonsense.

Another conspiracy theory was that the children received contaminated blood. This makes more sense, since many of the medical personnel were from Bulgaria and there was an earlier outbreak of HIV in Eastern Europe from blood transfusions to malnourished infants.

Yet few of the children with HIV had received blood transfusions.

Experts finally concluded that the real reason for the epidemic was something more mundane: the hospital was poorly equipped and under funded, so they reused needles, syringes, and IV tubing, and didn’t clean them properly before they reused them.

As a doc who has worked in a very poor rural hospital in Africa, I remember how we cleaned and reused (glass) syringes, needles, IV tubing, gloves, and other medical equipment. It was re-use them or use nothing. For example, in one month, our 120 bed hospital was granted six pairs of gloves in our government allotment (we were a church hospital subsidized by the government). With 100 deliveries and a dozen major operations each month, we had to reuse them over and over again. Luckily, we did get sent discarded surgical gloves by friendly donors overseas. That was before HIV, but even back then we worried if the gloves and instruments would be clean enough not to spread Hepatitis.

So if the epidemic was from poor cleaning practices, why not give money to the hospital to buy new sterilizers, retrain the personnel working at the hospital, and increase their budget to buy disposable syringes etc?

Why make a scapegoat of the foreigners, something that would discourage other skilled medical people coming to Libya to work at their hospitals?

Because if the lack of funding was pointed out as the problem, there might increase public outcry why they have a dictator whose family has 40 billion dollars hidden in various bank accounts, but their government can’t afford to give a hospital enough money to buy clean needles to treat their children.

Hence, a newspaper propaganda deluge against killer doctors and nurses, followed by show trials.

Eventually, after years of imprisonment and torture to make them confess, the accused finally were allowed to go home. Why?

Follow the money: From Wikipedia:

…a controversy has arisen concerning the terms of release, which allegedly include an arms trade as well as a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement signed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in July 2007. Both the French president and the Bulgarian president have denied that the two deals were related to the liberation of the Six, although this has been alleged by a variety of sources, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

None of this passed unnoticed by the public in Libya; no matter how the kids caught HIV, it is pretty clear that the incident was used to benefit Khadafi.

and now, with Khadafi being in his last days of tyranny, some are speaking out.

Again from the LATimes:

Parents now voice a long-repressed belief that Kadafi’s regime manipulated the tragedy, perhaps to cover up for negligence at the hospital or in anger over the conviction of a former Libyan intelligence operative in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Kadafi publicly linked the Lockerbie case and the Benghazi prosecutions, insisting that Libyan justice would handle the foreign medics just as Scotland treated the bombing suspects.

“From the beginning, everyone suspected that Kadafi had something to do with this,” said Saad Ali, 45, whose son was infected. “But until now, we were afraid to say it.”

So when you read the propaganda put out by Khadafi that the west was behind the war, just remember that some in Libya know Ghadafi and family have managed to steal several billions of dollars from the Libyan people, but his government hospitals couldn’t afford a clean needle to give their child medicine when they were sick.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. There is a shorter version of this crossposted on her HeyDoc Xanga Blog.

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