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May 15, 2019

Sindh demands UN agencies provide 240,000 HIV screening kits


May 15, 2019

KARACHI: Fearing a shortage of screening kits to diagnose thousands of people for HIV in Ratodero, Larkana, the Sindh government on Tuesday asked the international health organizations including World Health Organization, Unicef, UNAIDS and others to provide 240,000 kits.

The Ratodero town is facing an HIV outbreak where so far 478 people, including 387 children and 91 adults were tested positive for HIV since April 25, 2019, health officials said adding 33 more people mostly children were tested positive for the lethal viral disease on Tuesday alone. Experts are attributing the HIV outbreak to unhealthy medical practices, especially reuse of syringes by the quacks in the area.

As many as 12, 684 people have so far been screened for HIV at an emergency camp established at Taluka Hospital, Ratodero since April 25, officials said but added daily hundreds of people from Ratodero and adjoining villages are turning up at the Taluka hospital for screening. Ratodero has a population of 331,000 people and officials are planning to check maximum number of people there. So far, over four percent population of the town, mostly children were found infected with lethal viral infection. “Today at a meeting with UNAIDS, WHO and Unicef officials at Larkana, Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho asked the international health bodies to provide 200,000 kits for preliminary screening and 40,000 kits for secondary and tertiary screening”, an official of the Sindh health department told The News. The UN officials said they could not decide to provide such a huge number of kits, which is worth Rs. 60 million but pledged to discuss the provincial government’s demand at a meeting of all the stakeholders in Islamabad within two days and inform the provincial government as early as possible, he said. Officials said the Sindh Aids Control Programme had purchased 8000 kits for the HIV screening while National Aids Control Programme had provided 3000 kits to the provincial authorities.

A philanthropist had also contributed 500 screening kits to the provincial government but now the provincial authorities are running short of kits and resources to arrange hundreds of thousands of kits to screen the large number of people, they added. The health department official maintained that the UN officials also offered support in research, training, monitoring and evaluation and investigating the cause of outbreak of HIV in Ratodero, saying they could bring in international experts for the purpose. On the other hand, Sindh health department also decided to establish six more screening centers in Ratodero, the official said adding three screening centers would be established by the People’s Primary Health Initiative while remaining three others would be established by another NGO, Integrated Health Services in the same town. “Daily 1500 to 2000 people are visiting the screening camp at the Taluka Hospital Ratodero for HIV screening which is becoming unmanageable.

In order to facilitate them, we have decided to establish six more centers in addition to the existing camp”, the official said adding these screening camps would be established in far flung areas of the taluka so larger number of people could be facilitated.

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