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December 1, 2019

World AIDS Day being marked today


December 1, 2019

LAHORE : The World AIDS Day 2019 will be commemorated in Pakistan and around the world on Sunday (today) with a focus on challenging pervasive stigmatising behaviour that affects people living with HIV.

“The stigma continues to be the Achilles heel of the HIV response, which affects people living with HIV experience stigma personally and socially,” observes International AIDS Society (IAS) in its report ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday.

The IAS emphasised starting difficult conversations and challenging stigma. It urged people to share their experiences how they challenge stigma in their community using #HeartofStigma trend on the social media.

Globally, it is estimated that a total of 38 million people are battling with HIV/AIDs. Since the beginning of the epidemic, as many as 75 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 32 million people are estimated to have died of HIV. An estimated 0.8% [0.6-0.9%] of adults aged 15–49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions. African continent, mostly western African region, remains most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (3.9%) living with HIV and accounting for more than two-thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide.

Punjab AIDS Control Programme is leading the provincial response to HIV/AID to meet Sustainable Development Goals, which set the target of keeping the HIV epidemic at less than 0.1 per cent. The HIV prevalence in Punjab is less than the target and the programme envisages halting or controlling new infections.

An awareness drive has been initiated at the mass level in Punjab and seminars and awareness activities are being held in all districts. In Punjab, awareness walks and seminars are scheduled to be held through the coming week.

The main goal of the Punjab AIDS Control Programme is to prevent and halt/contain new HIV infections and improve the health and quality of life of people living with/affected by HIV in Punjab. The programme operates under the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department and its larger goal is to keep the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the current low level (below 0.1%) among general adult population. The prime focus is on HIV prevention among key population at risk.

The programme provides free testing, treatment and counseling services to HIV/AIDs patients and high risk groups.

The initiatives of service delivery for high risk groups include provision of services to the injecting drug users. Among the most at risk population, injecting drug users have the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The Punjab AIDS Control Programme registered a lot of injecting drug users in prisons in mass jail screening activity. The PACP has tested so far over 32,000 injecting drug users in Punjab.

For transgender people and other such people, the PACP works in collaboration with Khawaja Rehab Programmes. The transgender people and other such remain people are the second largest group with HIV prevalence. The Punjab AIDS Control Programme has started Pakistan’s first-ever transgender clinic at Fountain House.

The Punjab AIDS Control Programme has also reached out to the red-light areas. The Punjab AIDS Control Programme has partnered with the Walled City of Lahore Authority for people with high risk behaviour. Two centres in collaboration with WLCA have been made functional.

The programme has tested over 48,000 bus and truck drivers at 20 sites in 20 cities, more than 122,000 jail inmates in 2017-19 covering all prisons. The PACP has opened centres in 18 districts so far and it is expanding its services in all districts of Punjab as well.

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