At least 33, they found, tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. All of those who tested positive said they had been treated by the same unqualified medical practitioner.
Police officers in the Unnao area are now looking for a jhola chhaap doctor in his mid 40s who rides a bicycle, often sits on a platform in the middle of villages and offers dubious cures. If arrested, police officials said, he is likely to face charges including spreading dangerous disease, impersonating a doctor and practicing medicine without a license.
According to medical officials, he told many of his patients that an injection would make them feel better, and the patients said he kept reusing the same syringe without cleaning it.
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Government health officials are offering free HIV treatment to all the people who were infected.
Mohan Rao, the head of the Center of Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said the prevalence of jhola chhaap doctors was a result of India’s overburdened medical system.
“Desperate people find desperate ways to get health care,’’ he said. “It’s a failure of Indian society, a failure of Indian politics. We spend the lowest on public health care in the world.’’
India’s government spent 1.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product on health care in 2014, according to the World Bank. China, by contrast, spent 3.1 percent of its G.D.P. on health care that year, and the United States 8.3 percent.
The government said this month that it would offer free health care to half a billion poor Indians, but many details of the plan have yet to be finalized.
A lengthy page on an Indian consumer complaints website describes dozens of encounters with jhola chhaap doctors across India, with bilked patients denouncing “bogus” practitioners who “play with innocent people’s lives.”
The Delhi Medical Council, a government oversight body, estimates that fake doctors in Delhi outnumber the qualified and registered ones.