HIV and AIDS have been a major concern for the world for many decades now. Every year, World AIDS Day falls on Dec 1 and reminds us of the challenges this threat still poses. One of the main shortcomings of any approach to tackling this menace is that there is a lack of proper understanding of HIV and AIDS. Most people still associate a certain stigma with this disease which is more of a deficiency syndrome that anything else. This stigma and labelling results in inadequate care and provision of treatment at various levels. When this syndrome afflicts anybody, there is an absolute need of immediate attention and care. A recent report by Unicef sheds some light on this disease by informing us that over 110,000 people – including adolescents and children – died in 2021 as a result of this affliction worldwide. Just in one year, the total number of infections surpassed a staggering number of 300,000.
The worst finding is that most children spend many years after infection without being detected. Ideally, the response to HIV/AIDS – or to any other disease for that matter – should not discriminate against children but in countries such as Pakistan they seldom receive the right medical care at the right time. Now they are lagging behind adults in many directions of diagnosis and treatment. The Unicef report highlights that in the past couple of years, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, the attention to AIDS has suffered a lot. In Pakistan, some areas of northern Sindh have experienced the worst numbers in AIDS spreading to various districts. Just in one district there are reports of thousands of children infected with HIV.
One of the major causes of this spiral in infections is medical negligence at clinics, both private and public. Through injections and liquids, and due to a lack in sterilization practices, more and more children are getting infected and their parents lack the wherewithal to identify the problem. Once this infection gets out of hand they report it and by that time in many cases it is too little and too late. The gravity of this problem must not go unnoticed and health authorities across the country and particularly in Sindh must wake up to this challenge. Preventive mechanisms must be in place and so should be the latest treatment facilities. There is also a need for awareness raising so that the process of stigmatization is reversed as all victims of the disease deserve respect and a dignified treatment not only by medical and paramedical staff but by society as well.