PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar to mark World AIDS Day termed displacement and economic vulnerability as the main reasons behind the spread of Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
The seminar was arranged by the Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre, University of Peshawar (UoP) with the support of directorate of health services Fata, Unicef and UNAIDS. Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region Engineer Shaukatullah was the chief guest on the occasion.
The speakers said overseas Pakistanis, especially those working in the Gulf countries are the prime carrier of Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) and once they return home or are deported they transmit the virus to their spouses. They said women are the silent victims of the disease in the country.
Outgoing Country Director for UNAIDS, Osama Tavil said that addressing the public health issues in Pakistan was part of the Millennium Development Goals.
He added that extra-marital relations was not the sole reason for spread of the disease. “In fact use of injectable drugs and transfusion of unsafe blood are major causes of the disease in the country,” he said.
He stressed the need for a tangible role of the Islamic scholars and civil society for eradication of AIDS.Shaukatullah said cultural and religious barriers should be put aside to effectively control AIDS. He added most of the patients do not undergo test for HIV due to social norms of the country and the notion that the disease only spreads through extra-marital sex.
Secretary social sector, Fata Dr Aftab Durrani said cases of AIDS started appearing in Pakistan in late 1980s and the number of declared cases had reached 98,000 now.
The number of carriers who never undergo test for the disease is two times higher than the number of declared cases, he added. India is affected the most by the HIV virus in Asia and the number of HIV positive patients was around 35 million in the world, he said.
Unicef representative Dr Mohammad Rafiq said 88 percent women in Fata don’t know about the name of the disease in the first place.He categorised denial as the main cause of the spread of HIV in the country. He stressed that the people should consider AIDS as a disease not a stigma.UoP acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Qibla Ayaz also spoke on the occasion.