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Saturday November 27, 2021

Moot calls for awareness about preventive measures against sexually transmitted infections

October 26, 2021

Health officials and experts on Monday pointed out that the rapid spread of HIV in the country was due to lack of awareness about preventive measures against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

They deplored that despite being an excellent tool for the prevention of STIs as well as an effective tool for the control of population, condoms were still considered a taboo in Pakistan. Speaking at a consultative session jointly organised by the UNAIDS, federal health services ministry, UNFPA and Sindh health department, officials and experts called for engaging mainstream media as well as social media platforms to promote the benefits of condoms for the prevention of STIs.

National Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria Muhammad Bashir Khetran said that like vaccines and some prophylactic medicines, condoms were a preventive measure against transmissible diseases but they were still considered a taboo in the country, resulting in the spread of STIs.

“Burden of HIV in Pakistan is increasing with each passing day in Pakistan because use of condoms is very low among key populations who are infected with HIV. We want to promote the use of condoms, at least among the key populations to prevent healthy people from contracting HIV,” he said.

Khetran stressed the need for changing social behaviour in the country with respect to use of condoms, and urged the mainstream print, digital and electronic media to create awareness in this regard. He said use of social media could also be extremely effective in prevention of HIV as well as population in the country.

He said all the stakeholders should forward their recommendations for the availability and accessibility of condoms to the National Health Services, assuring that concerns regarding the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and Federal Board of Revenue would be shared with them.

UNAIDS for Pakistan and Afghanistan Country Director Yuki Takemoto said they were working with different stakeholders to address the issue of access to HIV prevention for key populations, which include people who inject drugs, male and female sex workers, transgender persons and others, adding that they were trying to found out barriers in access to condoms to them in Pakistan.

“It is the first time we are having this important dialogue with relevant stakeholders. Issues of

supply, taxation, and other regulatory issues were discussed and stakeholders assured of looking into these problems,” Yuki Takemoto said.

In his presentation, health consultant Nasir Sarfraz presented the statistics of extremely low condom use in key populations, saying that when used correctly and consistently, the male condom offers triple protection from unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.