GENEVA – Authorities in Switzerland are investigating whether an acupuncturist intentionally infected at least 15 people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, an official said Thursday.
The case shocked Switzerland when it came to light earlier this week, after Swiss tabloid Blick reported that authorities had kept silent on the allegations since first receiving a complaint five years ago.
Investigating magistrate Hermann Fleischhackl said a probe was launched after one alleged victim filed a criminal complaint in early 2005.
So far, 19 people with HIV have been found to have had contact with the unidentified acupuncturist, he said.
"Fifteen believe their infection may have something to do with the accused," Fleischhackl told The Associated Press. "Four people have no explanation for their infection or at least aren't linking it to the accused."
The infections are believed to have taken place between 2001 and 2005, authorities said.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen or breast milk, and it is unclear how the victims were infected with the virus. Several Swiss newspapers have reported that some of the victims claim to have been injected with infected blood.
Fleischhackl declined to comment on the reports, saying the cause of the infection was part of the ongoing investigation.
The magistrate said he will decide by next year whether to recommend the man be formally charged with multiple cases of intentionally spreading a human disease and causing serious bodily harm. The offenses carry maximum penalties of five and 10 years respectively.