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Reham al Hakami
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Girl gets HIV-tainted blood transfusion, Saudi Arabia in uproar

Case of 12-year-old girl who received HIV-tainted blood sparks widespread outrage in Arab country, angry calls for health minister's resignation

Roi Kais
Published: 02.24.13, 18:39 / Israel News

Saudi Arabia is in an uncharacteristic uproar, with citizens calling for the dismissal of the health minister over the case of a girl infected with HIV by a blood transfusion, CNN reported.

 

Reham al Hakami, 12, received a blood transfusion on February 12 due to sickle-cell anemia in the central hospital in the city of Jazan. A few hours later, her family was notified that the blood was infected with HIV, the AIDS virus.

 

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The girl was promptly flown to a hospital in the capital Riyadh, and it is still uncertain if she caught the virus.

 

Al Hakami appeared in an online video, calling viewers for support. "I need you to stand by me, and pray for me," she implored.

Al Hakimi's video
 

Following the internet debates and media brouhaha, the Ministry of Health released a formal statement, calling the incident a "critical error," and apologized to the girl, her family and the Saudi people.

 

Moreover, the ministry launched an official probe and announced it will act as the family's legal guardian in seeking compensation and will ensure legal procedures will be carried out.

 

Seven ministry officials were fired due to the incident, and others were fined.

 

These steps are rare in Saudi Arabia, where bureaucratic channels usually remain silent in the face of open criticism.

 

"I wish, just once, that a minister would resign over (his ministry's) mistakes," said a well-known TV presenter for the Saudi-owned MBC network. "If a case like this happened in other countries, not just one minister but several ministers would resign."

 

In a further faux-pas, the health minister visited the girl in a hospital Saturday and gave her an iPad, sparking mockery and ridicule on the social networks.

 

The line "hey sorry about what happened, so take this iPad and download some apps while you're waiting to die" was widely posted on Twitter, according to CNN.

 

The Saudi paper al Okaz reported that the blood donor was unaware he was carrying the disease, finding out only after the incident was made public.

 

The man, married with two children, said he was in shock and fainted when he heard the girl might be infected because of him.

  

Meanwhile, an official from the Saudi human rights commission claimed in an interview to Saudi paper al Watan that there are strong indications that al Hakimi's case was not the first.

 

"We are trying to investigate the other incidents," he said.

 

 

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