Wapda House illuminated with red lights in connection with the World AIDs Day. — Online
Wapda House illuminated with red lights in connection with the World AIDs Day. — Online

LAHORE: The World AIDs Day largely went unnoticed on Friday despite the fact that 270,000 people were living with HIV in Pakistan, including 49,000 women (15+) with Punjab sharing maximum burden of the disease.

Most of medical associations and health institutes are least interested in organising seminars and walks to sensitise the public about the transmission of the disease.

The day is observed on Dec 1 every year with a resolve to fight AIDs as a majority of the people living with it were unaware of the disease they were carrying with.

Medical experts say there are many modes of transmission of the disease but blood contact in medical practices, exchange of fluids from the infected patients, use of contaminated needles, barber shops, illicit sexual activities are major causes of the spread of the virus.

270,000 people living with HIV in Pakistan, majority of them is unaware of the disease, says UNAID

They say preventive measures are the best remedy to stop the spread of the disease.

According to UNAID’s Snapshot-2023 on AIDs, out of the total people living with HIV, as mentioned above, 49,000 were women (15+).

Of the total, 34,000 people are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), it said, adding that the HIV prevalence rate was 7.1 percent in transgender people, 5.4 percent in gay, 2.2 percent in lesbians and 38.4 percent people who inject drugs.

According to the report, 58,268 infected people were not aware that they were carrying the disease. There were estimated 2800 pregnant women who were living with HIV and of them 347 were receiving ART.

According to the report, gays were getting 50 percent HIV testing coverage, people who inject drugs 39 percent, female sex workers 48 percent and transgender people living with HIV were getting the said facility were 17 percent.

While issuing a statement on the World AIDs Day on Friday, Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Dr Jamal Nasir said that 52,000 prisoners of 43 prisons of Punjab have been screened for AIDs, hepatitis B & C, TB and non-communicable diseases for the first time in the history.

He said the treatment of prisoners affected by AIDS was started after they underwent PCR tests. Regular biannual screening of prisoners in Punjab had also been ordered, he added.

The minister said that 45 clinics in 36 districts of Punjab were providing free diagnosis and treatment facilities to the HIV patients under the Punjab AIDS Control Programme.

These clinics have been established in district headquarters and teaching hospitals, he added.

Currently, the number of registered AIDS patients in Punjab was more than 21,000 who were getting free medicines, psychological counseling and treatment.

Dr Jamal Nasir went on saying the use of syringes by drug addicts was the main reason for the spread of AIDS in Punjab.

“Use of non-sterilised syringe for injecting the patients was also a cause of spread of this disease”, he said.

The provincial minister suggested that blood transfusions must be done with caution to guard against AIDS.Dr Jamal Nasir hailed the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other donor organizations for their continued support for curtailing the menace of AIDS in Pakistan.

“The Punjab AIDS Control program has 21,690 active on treatment patients who are taking free medicine on a monthly basis”, he informed.

Mr Jamal Nasir said that the average cost of screening, diagnostic & treatment per patient is Rs.20,000. One of the programme’s landmarks is the achievement of more than 700 HIV negative child births from HIV positive mothers.

“The programme engages with various community-based organizations (CBO) to access high-risk populations for disease awareness, prevention & treatment”, he said.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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