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Libyan with AIDS virus looks to post-Gadhafi era

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[August 13, 2011]  BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) -- Libya's uprising has given Wael Busnina, who for more than a decades has lived with the HIV virus, a bit of hope for an end to isolation.

Busnina, 27, was among 400 children infected with the virus that causes AIDS in 1998 while he was hospitalized at Benghazi's El-Fatih hospital. The regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi accused five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting the children.

The medics were arrested, tortured into confessions and eventually sentenced to death, though international experts blamed unhygienic conditions at the hospital for the infections. After years of wrangling with Europe, Libya released the six in 2007 and they flew to Bulgaria, retracting their confessions.

The children themselves were little heard from.

Busnina says he spent life as a pariah. When he tested positive for HIV, his uncle -- who had been living in the same home as his family -- moved away, and friends began to shun him. Kept in an isolated section of the hospital during his school years, he attempted suicide three times.

He got into university but was branded with the nickname "AIDS." There was harassment from the regime, as secret police kept a close eye on him and others with the virus and tried to pressure them to leave Libya.

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The hold of Gadhafi's regime over Benghazi and much of eastern Libya ended with the start of the rebellion in February.

With the sign of Libyans demanding greater freedoms, Busnina says he realized "not all people are bad." So he has started a new association of those with HIV -- the "injected," they call themselves, rather than the "infected" -- to advocate society's acceptance and protection from discrimination.

[Associated Press; By SERGEY PONOMAREV]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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