PESHAWAR, July 21: Unavailability of Buprenorphine medicine could lead to increase in the number of HIV/Aids patients in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and nearby Federally Administered Tribal Areas, officials said.

They said that shortage of the medicine had also been hampering detoxification plan of the injection drug users in the province.

“We have in Pakistan Buprenorphine in 0.2mg strength while the dose given to the drug-addicts is between 4 to 6mg, which means that those undergoing detoxification will take 150 tablets in one time, which was not appropriate medically,” officials of the health department told Dawn.

They said that the Global Fund had signed an MoU with the government under which the latter would start running a 12-bed ward adjacent to the psychiatry ward at the Lady Reading Hospital within a month.

However, its seems that the proposed ward is unlikely to start its function concerning detoxification due to unavailability of medicines for oral consumption of addicts during the treatment regime.

The officials said that the health authorities had planned to import the drug in required strength and make it possible to treat the people using heroin through injections.

“For Opium Substitute Therapy, we need Buprenorphine because it is the only option in such cases,” they said and added that the Drug Regulatory Authority was spearheading the effort to make the drug available in the country.

A recent survey conducted by the UNODC a month ago found that 11 per cent population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have used different forms of drugs, including heroin, cannabis etc. The officials said that another study done in 2012 on injection drugs users saw presence of HIV/Aids in 20 per cent of them.

They said that only Peshawar had 1,850 drug users who shared needles while consuming the drug in groups. Non-existence of the UN’s Needle Syringe Programme is another factor that could flare up the disease.

“Not only this but cases in police, jail and recently a positive case from University of Peshawar are a cause of concern,” the officials said. According to them, the Provincial Aids Control Programme has also stopped provision of services for targeted invention due to non-availability of funds. Targeted intervention, for example, with drug users could deliver desired results, they said.

The officials said that a new PC-1 was being submitted with the Planning and Development Department after the PACP completed its first phase on June 30 and another Rs358 million had been allocated in the current’s year annual development programme.

They said that the province and Fata had 1,200 cases of HIV/Aids, but the matter of concern was that the disease which was considered to be imported by immigrant workers from Middle Eastern countries had been found in people who had no travel history abroad.

The health department detects 20-30 cases of HIV/Aids every month. The department has also requested the social welfare department to establish the rehabilitation and detoxification centres in Peshawar instead of Swabi, Malakand and Dera Ismail Khan, they said.

The officials said that the department had argued that it would provide detoxification services to the addicts under international protocols and coordinate with the social welfare department for their rehabilitation.

They said that immediate steps were needed to control the virus in circulation before it reached more people.

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