HIV Outbreak Worsens In Pakistan

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HIV Outbreak Worsens In Pakistan

LARKANA: As per recent reports, there has been a widespread HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) outbreak in various parts of Sindh. However, further research reveals that the outbreak is penetrating other parts of the country too.

A prominent Twitter handle tweeted about the said outbreak and subsequent consequences in Pakistan.

“The Pakistan HIV/AIDS outbreak is very real”, @kaalakawaa added.

PPP politician and former ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman tweeted about HIV and its repercussions.

Rehman reiterated the need for public awareness regarding the virus.

The Twitter thread in question further discussed the possibility of prevention techniques and use of PREP in Pakistan. PREP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, which is used to prevent the said outbreak.

It was in May last month when thousands of HIV cases were reported in Ratodero, Larkana. On June 3, 2019, the World Health Organisation declared the HIV outbreak in Ratodero, Larkana as “Grade 2 Emergency”. In a situation report titled Pakistan: HIV Outbreak in Larkana District Sindh, the organization highlighted the inadequate stock of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART/ARV) medicines in the area.

Upon the request of the federal government, a Rapid Response Team comprising of international health experts and infection specialists flew into Pakistan and later submitted their findings in the WHO situation report.

According to the report, 26,041 of the residents were screened for HIV in Ratodero, Larkana, it further states,

“Around 751 (2.9%) of the people were tested positive for HIV including 604 children, 135 adults while the age of 12 was unknown. As many as 531 (70%) are linked to the ART center including 443 children and 94 adults. Only 324 (43.1%) are receiving Anti-Retroviral Treatment at the moment”.

Further reports pertaining to HIV reveal that the outbreak is not only restricted to Sindh. An MNA from PPP Nafisa Shah took to Twitter explaining the mass number of infected cases.

Shah mentions almost 3000 cases in DG Khan and 2800 n Faisalabad.

According to the National Aids Control Programme website, 0.165 million people in Pakistan are estimated to be infected with HIV. The website further reveals that 24,331 people are aware of their status and 17,149 are receiving ARV therapy for now.

Saeed Ghani in one of his tweets quoted the recent HIV report pertaining to Punjab.

Naseem Salahuddin, a prominent infectious disease specialist explains the said outbreak in detail in one of her articles in Dawn Newspaper.

With reference to recent screening camps in Ratodero and a massive amount of cases being reported, Salahuddin mentions that such cases are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

According to Salahuddin, there are many lessons to learn from healthcare negligence in Sindh. Firstly, it’s the awareness among both healthcare practitioners and those who are on the receiving end.

A pediatrician from Larkana was initially accused of injecting HIV into his patients due to the repeated use of syringes. The police later cleared the pediatrician from injecting HIV, however charged him of medical negligence.

Salahuddin encourages health authorities to have a strict vigilance of blood screening in blood banks. She reiterates the use of unsafe sexual activities and how the former can increase the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.

According to Salahuddin,

“Medical curricula in most ‘boutique’ medical colleges do not incorporate the subject of ID that is so essential in Pakistan. Hence, HIV, its diagnosis, prevention, and myriad associated complications are overlooked until the terminal stage of the disease.”

Salahuddin also puts the onus upon local municipalities, which are primarily tasked to improve the existing sewage and solid waste management systems.

We must stop firefighting. Rather, we must prevent fires. Our people deserve good healthcare, not disease and misery, Salahuddin concluded her article in Dawn Newspaper.

Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has approved Rs1 billion endowment fund for the welfare of HIV infected persons. Shah further constituted a six-member committee to manage the fund.

Previously, Shah along with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had visited Taluka Ratodero Hospital where a large number of HIV cases have been diagnosed.

The Chief Minister remains adamant to tackle the ongoing crisis and rehabilitate the affected patients.

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