French HIV pioneer Luc Montagnier vows to get to root of Libyan AIDS case

26th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

26 September 2007, SOFIA (AFP) - Luc Montagnier, the French virologist credited with discovering HIV, vowed here Wednesday to shed light on the causes of a Libyan hospital AIDS outbreak and prove that the six Bulgarian medical workers blamed for it were innocent.

26 September 2007

SOFIA (AFP) - Luc Montagnier, the French virologist credited with discovering HIV, vowed here Wednesday to shed light on the causes of a Libyan hospital AIDS outbreak and prove that the six Bulgarian medical workers blamed for it were innocent.

"Our task is not finished yet. The Bulgarian medics are still accused by Libya of this crime. But I hope that we will be able to continue our scientific research and prove their innocence," Montagnier said.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor of Palestinian origin were released in July after spending eight and a half years in jail in Libya on charges of infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV-tainted blood in a hospital in the northeastern city of Benghazi.

Fifty-six of the children have since died.

The six medics, who had received death sentences, were released on July 24 after international pressure on the Libyan government and then extradited to Sofia, where they were pardoned by the Bulgarian president.

Montagnier, credited with co-discovering the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in 1983, said that researchers were scheduled to hold a meeting on the Libyan AIDS outbreak "in the coming weeks or months" under the aegis of the World Health Organisation.

"I've asked the WHO to organise the meeting in order to prevent" similar outbreaks occurring in future, particularly in developing countries, he said.

Montagnier and another Italian professor, Vittorio Colizzi, testified in court in support of the medics in 2003.

They presented scientific proof that the AIDS outbreak had been caused by poor hygiene and the multiple use of infected syringes at the hospital long before the arrival of the six foreigners in 1998.

Montagnier and Colizzi found no evidence of deliberate infection.

Their testimony was disregarded by the Libyan court, but it unleashed a wave of solidarity in scientific circles around the world, with a series of articles published in Nature magazine on the transmission of AIDS.

As a sign of recognition for Montagnier's efforts, he was awarded Wednesday in Sofia the highest distinction of the Bulgarian foreign ministry, a golden laurel branch.

AFP

Subject: French news

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