ROME In the past month, nearly 400 Libyan children infected with the AIDS virus have quietly come for treatment at some of the premier pediatric hospitals in Italy and France, sent to Europe at the expense of the Libyan government.
Nearly 150 have arrived in Rome, and more than 100 are being cared for at Bambino Gesú, a sprawling hospital owned by the Vatican on a hill overlooking the city, said Dr. Guido Castelli Gattinara, the pediatrician overseeing their care.
The children came because of deteriorating health, suffering from diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis. Most traveled with their families and are being treated as outpatients, but some are near death.
Their presence suggests that diplomatic efforts, complete with special medical intervention in Libya, have not made much headway in resolving a bizarre medical and political case that has dragged on for years. Even after Washington decided this spring to restore diplomatic relations, the medical issue continues to be a sticking point blocking full normalization.
Libyan prosecutors insist that these children were intentionally injected with the AIDS virus in 1998 by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor then working at the children's hospital in Benghazi, Libya. The medical workers have been imprisoned in Libya ever since, and their third trial on murder charges is now under way, with prosecutors calling for the death penalty.
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