December 02, 2016Print : Peshawar
World AIDS Day marked
PESHAWAR: Representatives from different civil society organisations on Thursday demanded the government to establish more centres to screen blood and provide treatment to HIV positive people, particularly the transgender community.
The demand was made at a media briefing organsied by the TransAction Alliance in collaboration with Blue Veins and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network at the Press Club. The event was arranged to highlight facts around World AIDS Day and the transgender community.
The speakers said the transgender community had high HIV infection rate. According to a recent international analysis, transgender women have 49 times the odds of having HIV compared to the general population. While transgender men are less likely to be HIV positive than transgender women, their rates of infection are still higher than that of the general population.
The organisers pointed to certain risk factors directly tied to transphobia and the marginalisation that transgender people face which may contribute to such high infection rates.
The risk factors include “higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, sex work, incarceration, homelessness, attempted suicide, unemployment, lack of familial support, violence, stigma and discrimination, limited health care access, and negative health care encounters.
Farzana Jan, president of the TransAction Alliance, said “Transgender people need to be included in the response as actors and not only as beneficiaries. The unwillingness to take an HIV test means that more transgender are diagnosed late, when the virus may have already progressed to AIDS.”
The media was told that in 2015 3,500 AIDS patients had died in Pakistan, while 400 patients lost lives due to this disease in Peshawar, Malakand, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat Hangu and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The speakers said over 100,000 patients had been diagnosed with the disease in Pakistan while a very low percentage is on treatment because the drop out is high. The HIV/AIDS rate among Transgender population in Pakistan is 6.2 which is epidemic stage 2.
Qamar Naseem of Blue Veins said transgender people faced additional barriers to healthcare that other HIV-affected people may not, specifically the very real fear of being discriminated against by the health care professionals or being denied treatment because of their gender identity or expression.
“These barriers make it more likely for transgender people to avoid getting tested and less likely to remain in HIV-related medical care”, he added.Taimur Kamal of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network and Zar Ali Khan of Fata Commission of Human Rights also spoke on the occasion. Meanwhile, activists of Khwendo Kor, a women rights organisation, also organised a walk in front of Peshawar Press Club to mark the World AIDS Day and create awareness against AIDS in the society.