KARACHI: Confirming that Karachi is among the top cities of the world with an ‘alarming’ increase in HIV prevalence, a senior official of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said political leadership of the country should chip in with all resources available to contain the disease from turning as lethal as it was in Africa.

“Since Karachi is among the top cities of the world where HIV’s prevalence is high it is time to work more efficiently among such communities in this city, including raising awareness among all stakeholders to keep the disease in check,” said Dr Mamadou Sakho, country director, UNAIDS Pakistan and Afghanistan, while briefing the representatives of media at a hotel here on Wednesday.

He said it was time to work among the communities, which were vulnerable to the disease. They were termed the ‘most at risk’ populations, including people who inject drugs (PWIDs), transgender people, male and female sex workers and prisoners.

He said his organisation had selected Karachi among other top cities of the world where sizeable number of people with HIV lived and its prevalence was alarming.

“At present, Pakistan is among the countries where specific communities are exposed to HIV, warranting us to work among them and contain the disease. If it is not done and the disease gets generalised like it is in the countries of Africa, it will become too difficult to rein it in.”

He said in a recent meeting with the parliamentarians of the country, he had advised them to work diligently to contain the disease with all resources available while the world was there to support Pakistan in certain fields technically and financially.

Political support needed

“Pakistanis, especially [the] political leadership, should support the initiative to free the country from this disease.”

He said improvement was needed in management and the accountability apparatus.

Dr Younis Chachar, programme manager of the Sindh AIDS Control Programme (SACP), said the new estimates showed that Sindh had almost half of the country’s total HIV population, which was some 56,949.

However, he said his organisation had reported 11,464 HIV patients so far who had been put under treatment. They included 11,225 HIV positive people, while the remaining 239 were full-blown AIDS cases.

He said in addition to treatment facilities in Karachi and Larkana, the SACP would be establishing more facilities in the city and the rest of Sindh.

They included centres in the Aga Khan Hospital, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, the Lyari General Hospital, and the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi and similar facilities in Hyderabad, Benazirabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and other parts of Larkana division.

Family awareness centres from basic health units and rural health centres’ level to tertiary levels in Sindh districts had been planned.

The SACP had helped 45 mothers with HIV — 26 in Karachi and 19 in Larkana — to have HIV-free pregnancies and the effort would be expanded to other districts as well.

The new plans, he said, would help the SACP achieve 80 per cent coverage instead of present 40pc.

He said UNAIDS had selected Karachi for exclusive attention since “if Karachi is controlled, it will help to save the country.”

He said similar focus had also been promised by UNAIDS for Larkana, where a recent HIV scare had shocked the country.

Dr Sofia Furqan of the National AIDS Control Programme also spoke.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2017

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