KARACHI, May 22: Sindh became the ‘first territory’ in South Asia to have a law to control and treat HIV/Aids as an ordinance was signed on Wednesday.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad promulgated ‘The Sindh HIV/AIDS Control, Treatment and Protection Ordinance 2013’ on Wednesday, said press secretary to the governor Syed Wajahat Ali.

Caretaker Sindh law minister Mehmood Mandviwalla said with the promulgation of the ordinance, Sindh had become the first region in South Asia to have such an ordinance.

“We are the first in the whole South Asia, even countries like India and Sri Lanka are yet to enact such a law,” said Mr Mandviwalla while speaking to Dawn.

He said with the ordinance, which would be in effect for the next 90 days, people living with HIV would be ensured to be treated as equal citizens of the country and an unfair stigma and discrimination associated with the disease would be helped to dilute.

Besides, he said, the law was made in such a way that it would ensure prevention of epidemic-like situations vis-à-vis the disease in such districts as Hyderabad and Larkana.

“HIV is in our society and it is spreading. We should take it as a reality and take measures to counter it instead of sweep the matter under the carpet,” he said.

He said NGOs, religious scholars and all other stakeholders were eager to deal with the problem.

“We could draft and implement such a landmark law because of the devolution process through the 18th constitutional amendment,” he said.

“We have introduced an ordinance and have offered it to the next political government, which should make it into law through legislation.”

He said with this law not only Sindh but the whole country would get appreciation in the international community as “we are party to most UN conventions but our pace of ratifications is not very appreciable”.

The ordinance contains implementation and monitoring, formation of the Sindh Aids Commission, administration of the Sindh Aids Commission, prohibition of discrimination based on HIV status, penalties for discrimination, measures with regard to awareness of HIV/Aids, need for behaviour change, communication and advocacy, HIV screening for sexual assault cases, children, prisoners, provision of universal precautions and post-exposure prophylaxis, confidentiality of information, authorised disclosure of information, partner notification to prevent HIV transmission, penalties of risk of transmission HIV/Aids, penalties of negligence of a health facility, penalties of unauthorised disclosure, etc.

According to the ordinance, a six-member commission would be formed and all members would be taken from outside the government.

The commission would also be responsible to advise the government on all matters relating to prevention, control, care, support and treatment of the disease.He said the most important provisions of this ordinance were protection provided to the people living with HIV against discriminations in all spheres of life, including healthcare, employment and education.

The ordinance also incorporates penalties prescribed for any such discrimination and stigmatisation of HIV/Aids patients.

Mr Mandviwalla said that Pakistan was facing a concentrated epidemic of HIV/Aids and the government since 1987, when the first HIV positive case was reported in the country, had been trying to respond to the situation, through national and provincial Aids control programmes.

”It prohibits coercion and/or requirement of screening of a person for any of the above purposes or for marriage,” said Mr Mandviwalla.

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