ISLAMABAD: Although 9,284 people have so far tested positive for HIV throughout Pakistan in the first 11 months of the current year, it is estimated that around 30,000 people are contracting HIV infections annually, officials said on Friday.
They said although HIV infections were decreasing all over the world, Pakistan was among the few countries where new HIV infections were constantly on the rise. They declared Punjab as the most-affected province where around 52 percent of people were HIV positive.
“Larkana, Kasur, Sargodha and Lahore are the most-affected cities with highest burden and prevalence of HIV. We need to establish HIV prevention units in 10-15 most-affected districts, including these cities, to prevent the spread of HIV,” Iftikhar Shallwani, Federal Secretary of Health, told a ceremony in Islamabad to observe the World AIDS Day 2023.
The ceremony was organized by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination in collaboration with the Common Management Unit (CMU) to fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria and UN partners, including UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA and other agencies. It was attended by infectious diseases and public health experts, representatives from the international health agencies, physicians and policymakers.
The federal health secretary conceded that Pakistan was struggling to prevent and control HIV and called for tackling the infectious disease like it managed to control Covid-19, saying Pakistan controlled the Covid-19 pandemic a lot better than many European and developed countries.
Calling for deploying ‘frontline workers’ to identify people living with HIV and for the prevention of new infections, Iftikhar Shallwani said like polio, HIV had become a public health challenge for the country and it required collaborative efforts to bring it under control.
UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan Julien Harneis said HIV was on the rise among men having sex with men (MSM), injectable drug users, transgenders and female sex workers and called for increasing awareness among them to get screened for HIV and start treatment to live a healthy and normal life. He deplored that although HIV infections were reducing globally, new HIV infections were increasing in Pakistan, adding that globally, 86 percent of people were aware of their HIV status while in Pakistan only 23 percent of people living with HIV knew their status and alarmingly the remaining 77 percent were passing it on to others unknowingly.
Federal Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan, who could not attend the ceremony, in his message, said the Government of Pakistan is firmly committed to eradicating the AIDS epidemic by 2030, aligning with the global 95-95-95 HIV milestones. It is crucial to address healthcare and societal imbalances to ensure that no one is marginalized or left behind.
Ms. Yuki Takemoto, Country Director of UNAIDS Pakistan, said the World AIDS Day 2023 highlights the full potential of community leadership to help end AIDS as a public health threat in Pakistan.
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