ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said on Tuesday that the investigation report had revealed that reuse of injection syringes was the main reason behind the spread of HIV in Larkana.

In Pakistan, 90 per cent cases of HIV were because reuse of injections, he said while addressing a seminar titled “To address Unsafe Injection Practices in Pakistan”, which was organised by the Ministry of National Health Services at a local hotel.

In May this year, a sudden outbreak of HIV was observed in the Ratodero area of Larkana, Sindh. Since the issue was of grave concern, the government requested the World Health Organisation (WHO) to investigate the matter.

In response, a WHO-led experts’ team visited Pakistan. Its key tasks included ascertaining the source of the outbreak and controlling it; providing technical expertise, particularly in the areas of HIV testing, paediatric HIV treatment and family counseling; and ensuring adequate supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antiretroviral medicines and single-use needles and syringes.

Dr Mirza said that since the outbreak of HIV, the ministry had been working hard to put together a national response.

“In Pakistan, 95pc injections are administered unnecessarily. A decision has been made to take a number of steps to ensure that the disease does not spread,” he said. “From next year auto-destructible syringes will be used across the country to address this issue. Besides, safe blood transfusion is being ensured and we will also introduce infection prevention programme in hospitals.”

The SAPM said that in Pakistan 10pc people suffered from hepatitis and, therefore, by June 2020 the Prime Minister’s Programme on Hepatitis would be started to provide them free or cost treatment.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2019