Dubai: Drugs addicts and transgenders are the main source of spreading HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) in Pakistan, said a senior official.
Medical experts in Pakistan stressed that mass awareness campaigns should be launched to educate people about preventive measures and treatment options for HIV.
Dr Sikandar Memon, the Program Manager of HIV/AIDS Control Programme in Sindh province, said there is urgent need for creating awareness about HIV infection, saying people in Pakistan are either unaware of their infection or hiding it due to social and cultural taboos.
He explained drug addicts and transgenders are the main source of spreading HIV and AIDs and claimed individuals were spreading the infection in Sindh. Unsafe, but common, practices such as reusing syringes and drips caused children being infected with HIV diseases in country, he said.
Acording to World Health Organization , unsafe injection practices and poor infection control is likely to be the most important driver of the outbreak,”
25,000people registered in Aids control programmes
“Awareness is very much needed in general public at large and specifically healthcare providers and awareness programme have been launched in Sindh to minimise the infection of HIV and AIDS”, he added.
He also highlighted the importance of media in creating awareness among masses, saying public awareness seminars should also be organized in this connection.
There was a need to work with parents, and health-care professions, to warn against the rampant overuse of syringes and drips, reportd APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.
Dr Memom said the federal government was in touch with the Sindh health department to provide all out assistance to overcome the alarming situation in the province.
Expert said the disease was also spreading in other part of the country because of quacks as they used instruments which were not sterilized.
Dr Shobah Luxmi, Infectious Diseases consultnat at Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi, said that patients were at particular risk of contracting diseases or viruses at such clinics, where injections were often pushed as a primary treatment option.
“Sharing a needle or syringe for any use, including injecting drugs under the skin (skin popping), steroids, hormones or silicone, could put you at risk of HIV and other infections found in the blood like hepatitis C, she added.
She stressed the need to enforce ban on the reuse of syringes and called for the provision of safe blood transfusions.
537children between 2 and 5 contract HIV in Sindh outbreak
Dr Sikandar said tha iternational and national health authorities and organisations working in Pakistan have already become active to curtail the HIV/AIDS outbreak in Sindh. He also stressed the need to control the fear among the people about spreading of the virus.
“Like the patients of diabetes and hypertension take a tablet each day, similarly the HIV positive patients can also take a single tablet daily to weaken the virus,” he added.
According to Dr Zafar Mirza, Pakistani Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Health the reported cases of HIV in Pakistan are way less than actual numbers as according to conservative estimates, there are 163,000 HIV and AIDS cases in Pakistan, of which only 25,000 are registered with the national and provincial AIDS control programmes, and of these 25,000 cases, only 16,000 are getting proper treatment.
He underlined the need to address the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. “The spread of communicable diseases exposes the deficiencies inherent in our healthcare system and our cultural practices,” he noted.
He recentluy told Pakistani media that a high-level international rapid response mission has been dispatched to to various areas especially in the Sindh provinc of Pakistan to ascertain the cause of the HIV outbreak, to advise on mitigation measures, and to suggest ways to avoid similar recurrences in future.
Responding to the HIV outbreak in Ratodero in Sindh, Dr Zafar said that the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acceded to Pakistan’s request for a thorough investigation into the outbreak, He added that the Sindh government, with the assistance of the federal government, has so far carried out blood screening of 21,375 people, of whom 681 have tested positive for HIV.
“The most striking feature of the outbreak is that of these 631 cases, 537 cases are children in the two to five years age bracket, followed by children aged between 5-15 years,” Dr Zafar said.
Referring to the potential underlying causes of HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks, Dr Zafar cited reuse of syringes, use of unscreened blood for transfusion purposes, non-adherence to protocols for infection prevention and control, and unprotected sexual practices as the key challenges.
AIDS describes a set of symptoms and illnesses that happen at the final stage of HIV infection, if left untreated.