ALMATY, Kazakhstan - The number of children who contracted HIV in southern Kazakhstan in an outbreak blamed on doctors' negligence has reached 96, health authorities said Thursday. The two most recent victims, aged 3 and 4, were diagnosed with HIV in the Sairam district and the city of Turkestan respectively, said regional health department spokeswoman Ayzhan Umarova.

The Central Asian nation has been shocked after scores of children and 13 mothers contracted HIV through injections or blood transfusions at hospitals in the city of Shymkent, some 1,000 miles south of the capital, Astana.

Eight children who contracted AIDS in the case have died.

Authorities have been testing thousands of mothers and children feared to be at risk of contracting HIV.

Nationwide inspections have revealed numerous cases of incompetence and corruption among doctors and nurses.

Twenty-one doctors and health officials accused of causing the outbreak went on trial in Shymkent in January.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, HIV/AIDS has swept across the former Communist countries. According to the United Nations, there were 1.6 million people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2005, a more-than twentyfold increase in less than a decade.

Most of the people with HIV in the region are in Russia and Ukraine, but the situation has also worsened in Central Asia.

According to the World Bank, the number of HIV/AIDS patients in Kazakhstan has been doubling annually since 2000, and UNICEF estimates that the true number of people with HIV is three times higher than what it says is the official figure of about 7,000.