‘Internal rift’ mars Punjab AIDS Control Programme

Updated November 29, 2019

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The Punjab AIDS Control Programme (PACP) is ‘almost on the verge of closure’ after a crisis hit the largest programme of the country due to resignations of the key officers following ‘internal rift’ and an alarming surge in number of suspected HIV/AIDS cases across the province. — Reuters/File
The Punjab AIDS Control Programme (PACP) is ‘almost on the verge of closure’ after a crisis hit the largest programme of the country due to resignations of the key officers following ‘internal rift’ and an alarming surge in number of suspected HIV/AIDS cases across the province. — Reuters/File

LAHORE: The Punjab AIDS Control Programme (PACP) is ‘almost on the verge of closure’ after a crisis hit the largest programme of the country due to resignations of the key officers following ‘internal rift’ and an alarming surge in number of suspected HIV/AIDS cases across the province.

The official documents pertaining to the figures painted a gloomy picture showing that 319 suspected cases of HIV/AIDS surfaced during October alone in 20 districts of Punjab.

Of total [319], 295 suspected cases were reported in Attock district, constituting 66.29 percentage.

The provincial capital Lahore was the second city followed by Multan which posted 11.61pc and 7.59pc cases, respectively.

The officials/experts feared that if the above-mentioned suspected patients were further tested for the confirmation of the disease, 30pc of the total cases may test positive for HIV-AIDS.

Four key officials quit jobs; alarming rise in suspected HIV/AIDS cases

They were of the view that the situation headed from bad to worse when ‘internal politics’ hit the programme and the situation led to the resignations of four key officers of the PACP.

PACP treatment coordinator Dr Hirra Khan tendered her resignation a couple of months back following her differences with programme head Dr Munir Ahmad Malik over some official matters.

Later, another important officer - Dr Mohsan Arshad - who was working as manager (operations) resigned from his office.

The officials said as no one from the higher authorities intervened to address chronic issues, information technology head of the entire programme, Mohammad Tayyab, and the store officer also tendered their resignations.

One of the officials said: “The situation is still uncertain at the headquarter of the PACP having strength of around a dozen officers on key slots to run the entire programme.”

If issues were not taken seriously, more officials may quit the jobs, the official claimed.

On the other hand, a total of 448 suspected cases were reported in 20 districts of Punjab from January to October this year.

It stated that the situation remained almost under control from January to September as only 129 suspected cases of HIV/AIDs were reported in these districts.

However, the sudden surge was reported in October when the officers working on key positions quit jobs following their ‘issues’ with the programme director.

Prepared by the Punjab Information Technology Board, the report based on official figures was dispatched to the secretaries of both health departments of the province with a special note to take action on the matter to avoid any untoward situation.

PACP Director Dr Munir Ahmad Malik expressed his ignorance about the report saying that he would be in a position to comment on the matter once he got the report. “The Punjab Information Technology Board officials can better tell about the reported cases”, he said when this correspondent asked him for clarity about sharp surge in the HIV/AIDS suspected cases across the province.

However, about resignations of the officials, he said some of them were doing two jobs and when his department questioned them, they resigned from their offices. “The programme is providing all available services - screening and treatment facilities - absolutely free of cost.”

To a question, Mr Malik said apparently no official was hired so far to fill the positions left by the four officers.

According to official documents, the screening process of thousands of new inmates of 39 jails in Punjab to check HIV infection (and treatment, if required) hit a snag as the inspector general of prisons and the AIDS Control Programme head disagreed on ‘short expiry of the kits’.

Earlier in October, IG Prisons Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig categorically refused screening of the inmates on the HIV Rapid Test Kits provided by the programme.

He had returned the kits twice on the plea that these had short expiry date and asked the programme director to provide them with kits having at least one-year expiry period otherwise his department would not take any risk.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2019