Monday May 23, 2022

Private sector support sought as way forward for TB-HIV control

By Our Correspondent
May 14, 2022

Islamabad: The rising number of TB and HIV cases in Pakistan warrants stronger collaboration with the private healthcare sector, which is the first point of contact for the majority of the population. Although a lot of work has been done to upscale collaborative TB/HIV activities, the overall coverage of services remains low, making it essential to proactively engage the private sector in efforts to tackle TB-HIV co-infection.

Views to this effect echoed on the first day of an international consultative event on ‘Enhancing TB-HIV Collaboration in the Private Sector,’ here Thursday. Organized by Mercy Corps, in collaboration with the Common Management Unit (managing TB, AIDS, and Malaria), the consultation will be followed today (Friday) with group work leading to the development of a draft ‘National Strategy for HIV Testing Among Patients in the Private Sector.’

The event was attended by representatives from the National and Provincial TB and AIDS Control Programmes, UNDP, UNAIDS, and civil society organizations. Addressing the participants, the National Coordinator of Common Management Unit Bashir Khetran expressed the government’s commitment to strengthening TB-HIV collaboration, which is also part of the End-TB Strategy. A Coordination Committee for Collaborative TB/HIV Activities, which provides a general policy on TB-HIV collaborative activities, is already operational at the national level, the participants were apprised.

“Largescale interventions to end TB in Pakistan are in place. We also have excellent partnerships in both the public and private sectors to meet the needs of the affected population. What we need is to bring services of TB and HIV closer to the communities we serve, ensure availability of HIV rapid testing kits, and develop linkages between TB and HIV services,” the Country Director of Mercy Corps Dr. Farah Naureen pointed out.

The Regional Advisor for TB at WHO EMRO Dr. Van Den Boom Martin and Dr. Christian Gunneberg from the Global TB Programme, WHO highlighted the importance of engaging private healthcare providers and linking public and private healthcare services to enhance prevention and treatment services. They underlined the need to build partnerships among organizations working independently to get better results.