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‘HIV patients denied healthcare’

November 23, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and those at increased risk of transmission is unremitting in Pakistan, including in healthcare settings, the national programme manager for the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the seminar at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai said that in addition to social rejection and exclusion, people living with HIV often endure rejection and denial of care in healthcare settings.

“They have reported dentists refusing to work on their teeth, surgeons refusing to do surgery. Pregnant women living with HIV reported being denied obstetric care. They have also reported breaches of the confidentiality and disclosure of their HIV status without their consent,” he said.

HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed 35 million lives so far. In 2016, 1m people died from HIV-related causes around the world. There were approximately 36.7m people living with HIV at the end of 2016, and 1.8m contracted HIV in 2016.

Around the world, 54pc of adults and 43pc of children living with HIV are receiving lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART). Global ART coverage for pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV is 76pc.

The World Health Organisation representative in Pakistan, Dr Assai Ardakani said the world has witnessed progress in HIV surveillance, prevention, treatment and care. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of people living with HIV receiving ART increased to more than double.

During the seminar, NACP Senior Programme Officer Dr Quaid Saeed presented the results of the latest HIV surveillance survey, carried out in 2016. The survey found that HIV in Pakistan is concentrated in people who inject drugs, but the trend is changing, with rising prevalence levels among female and transgender sex workers.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2017