In a shocking revelation, World Health Organisation (WHO) experts say three injections out of every four in India and other countries in south Asia are given using unsterilised needles, exposing countless people to the risk of hepatitis, HIV and other infections like abscesses, septicaemia, malaria and viral haemorrhagic fevers.

The seven countries in the WHO’s southeast Asian region group D -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and North Korea -- are at the very bottom of the league for ‘injection safety’ among developing countries.

Seventy-five per cent of injections in group D countries are administered using needles that have already been used and not properly sterilised, according to the study that’s published in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.

In other parts of Asia and the western Pacific, needle re-use stood at 30%; in the two regions of Africa, 17% and 19%; in west Asia, 70%; and in eastern Europe, 11%. Latin America was not included in the study for lack of data.

Interestingly, the researchers found that injection practices are safer in sub-Saharan Africa than they are in the Middle East and south Asia.

Worryingly, the proportion of India’s population aware of the potential risk of HIV infection through unsafe injections was a mere 19%, as late as in 1999.

The study found that the annual number of injections per person changed from 1.7 to 11.3 (overall average: 3.4 injections per person per year).