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Pakistan

June 1, 2019

Exclusive: The Global fund fears possible spread of HIV into general population in Pakistan

Pakistan

Sat, Jun 01, 2019

Karachi: The Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria Saturday said that it is worried about a possible spread of HIV into general population in Pakistan as recent outbreak in Ratoderoa area of Larkana (and many outbreaks before) is just a symptom of a deeper crisis.

“The spread of HIV in Pakistan is worrying. Long time thought to be contained in high risk groups, notably injecting drug users, it is now on the verge of spilling into the general population. Larkana (and the many outbreaks before in Pakistan) is just a symptom of a deeper crisis. There is no reason for panic, but also no justification for denial”, said Dr. Werner Buehler, Senior Fund Portfolio Manager at the Global Fund in Geneva in response to written queries from The News International.

Responding to queries from The News regarding HIV/Aids situation in Pakistan and a possible procurement of Antiretroviral medicines for HIV infected children in Ratodero area of Pakistan, the Global Fund official confirmed that the fund has started procurement of Pediatric Antiretroviral Therapy (ART/ARVs) medicines for the children infected with HIV in Ratodero area of Larkana, Sindh “through our Rapid Supply Mechanism, after consultation with WHO on the most appropriate regimens”.

“We have indeed started procuring paediatric ARV, through our Rapid Supply Mechanism, after consultation with WHO on the most appropriate regimens”, Dr. Werner Buehler said in his email to this scribe.

Over 742 people including 605 children have so far been tested positive for HIV in Ratodero area of Larkana since April 25, 2019, officials of Sindh Aids Control Program (SACP) said, adding that majority of the children (411) were of two to five years of age while 57 were of less than one year’s age.

Following reports of deaths of some children due to HIV/Aids related co-infections in the Ratodero area of Larkana, World Health Organization (WHO) officials in Pakistan had said that they had requested the Global fund to provide pediatric ART medicines for around 500 children under the age of five years who could not take drug in tablet forms.

SACP Program Manager Dr. Sikandar Memon said at the moment, they already had 420 infected with HIV in Sindh who were registered with them and getting ART medicines regularly that were being provided by the Global Fund and added that also started giving ARTs to around 190 newly diagnosed children at Paediatric HIV treatment center in Larkana.

The Global Fund official maintained that they are providing treatment for roughly 15,000 people living with HIV in Pakistan, saying: “We have seen massive increases of numbers of people on ART in the past 4-5 years, mostly due to revised treatment guidelines and expanded and decentralized testing in the drug user community. This is a good development, as individuals on ART can no longer spread the virus and can lead healthy and normal lives”.

“But it has financial consequences”, said Dr. Buehler. “The Global Fund is still the only funding source for ART in Pakistan. There is an urgent need for the Government (of Pakistan) to plan and pay for domestic drug procurement. There is also a need to decentralize HIV service delivery (and testing) as much as possible. Only then can we overcome one of the biggest obstacles to treatment i.e. distance”, he added.

Dr. Werner Buehler maintained that the Global Fund will continue to support Pakistan’s fight against HIV for the foreseeable future. “We try our best to prevent more human suffering, but we do realize that the roughly 12 Million USD the Fund spends on HIV in Pakistan per year may not be enough at this stage. We hope that Government finds the resources to intensify the fight”.

The Global fund official said media and independent journalism have a major role to play in raising general awareness over the nature of HIV. That supposes that more and more journalists acquire technical knowledge about the epidemic, its causes, its treatment, its prevention, in order to comment critically on the situation and to repeat the right messages at every opportunity.