Islamabad: Thirty-one people tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) during a screening programme conducted in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Saturday, health authorities said amid a probe by international experts from the WHO to check the outbreak of the deadly virus.

The new cases in Shikarpur district see a surge in cases of HIV in Sindh after 215 positive cases, including 181 children, were reported in Ratodero district of Larkana last month, Geo News reported.

According to District Health Officer Shabbir Shaikh, 2,500 people were screened, out of which, 31 tested positive, the report said.

Those who tested positive were being provided with treatment and other amenities according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations.

A delegation of United Nations bodies, including WHO, UNAIDS and Unicef, are already in Karachi to help Sindh health authorities investigate the alarming outbreak in the district.

The main reason behind the spread of HIV virus was revealed to be the use of unsafe blood for transfusion, unsafe injections and other unsafe practices, WHO representative Palitha Mahipala said.

Those affected have urged the Sindh government to make medicines readily available at private medical stores, apart from government hospitals, to fight the virus.

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said that legislation for the formation of a health commission, to address HIV outbreak, has been completed, the Express Tribune reported.

Dr Pechuho said that the investigation revealed a large number of doctors in Sindh were carrying out unsafe medical practices. Efforts are being made to stop them from doing so. She also requested the federal government to allocate funds in the budget for the production of auto-lock syringes in Pakistan, the report said.

She said that the recent outbreak was a sign that if the issue of HIV is neglected any further, it would result in a dangerous situation.

Federal Health Minister Dr Zafar Mirza also said that federal and provincial governments were working together and the recent HIV outbreak was a wake-up call to improve the health-care system in the country. He stressed on the need to make HIV control programme more effective, at national and provincial levels. He further said that Pakistan had the highest number of Hepatitis B cases in the world and Hepatitis C was also turning out to be a big challenge, adding that if not addressed, HIV too would become a big problem.

Citizens have also been asked to take adequate measures to counter these conditions.

A total of 76.1 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV, since the epidemic surfaced in the 1980s. Some 35 million have died so far, according to official figures.

Without treatment, HIV-infected people go on to develop AIDS — a syndrome that weakens the immune system and leaves the body exposed to infections such as tuberculosis and certain types of cancer.

Treatment has side-effects and is also costly, but allows infected people to stay alive for longer.