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May 5, 2019

Shockwaves across Pakistan as 127 children test positive for HIV in Larkana

Top Story

May 5, 2019

KARACHI: Alarm bells began ringing in Islamabad over an out of control HIV outbreak in Larkana and the provincial government’s incompetence to deal with the situation after 25 more children and four adults tested positive for the lethal viral infection, raising the total number of infected children during last 10 days to 127.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, international health organisations have decided to quickly dispatch a team of technical experts to probe the outbreak after no let-up was observed in an HIV outbreak that has gripped the Larkana district of Sindh for the last 10 days. 

An official of the federal health ministry said following a discussion with UNAIDS Country Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Dr. Maria Elena G Filio Borromeo, they have decided to send a technical team of experts comprising an epidemiologist, a prevention specialist and UNAIDS strategic information advisor as well as officials from WHO, Unicef, UNAIDS and NACP to investigate the recent outbreak and present its recommendations to the government.

“At the moment, provincial health authorities are not aware of the root cause of the spread of HIV infection among such a large number of children and to ascertain the reasons, a team of technical experts is being rushed to Larkana tomorrow to launch an epidemiological investigation into the HIV infection”, an official of National Aids Control Program (NACP) told The News. He said the team would investigate whether the HIV infection is being spread through reused syringes, unsafe blood transmission or if it is some deliberate action.

On Saturday, 25 more children and four adults were tested positive for HIV in Larkana after 619 people were screened for the deadly infection. “So far, 157 new cases including 127 children and 30 adults have been detected during a mass screening drive underway since April 25, 2019”, Director General Health Sindh Dr. Masood Solangi told The News. Solangi said during the last 10 days, they had screened over 4,102 people in Ratodero, Larkana and the drive will continue till they ascertain the root cause of the viral infection.

Meanwhile, the provincial drug administration issued directives to drug inspectors to ensure that syringes are not reused at any public or private hospital in the province. Sindh Police have already formed a Joint Investigation Team to probe into the spread of HIV, but the federal authorities said it is unlikely to produce any result as it lacks capacity and is not capable of doing such a technical investigation.

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