KARACHI: Karachi is now classified into concentrated phase of HIV epidemic where the overall prevalence among people who inject drugs is more than 48%, officials said on Thursday, adding that other high-risk groups such as transgender and men having sex with men (MSM) have also passed the concentrated epidemic threshold. Possible drivers of the outbreak seem to indicate unsafe practices of blood transfusion and re-use of injection needles and syringes.
To help 95 per cent people living with HIV (PLHIV), their status and bring 95 per cent of them to adopt antiretroviral therapy (ART), Administrator Karachi Barrister Murtaza Wahab and UNAIDS Country Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan Yuki Takemoto signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to join a network of more than 350 cities worldwide committed to ending their urban HIV epidemics by 2030.
By doing so, Karachi will become the first fast-track city in Pakistan, joining 11 other cities in the Asia-Pacific region. Pakistan has an estimated 210,000 people living with HIV of whom 43% are in the province of Sindh with 19,031 positive cases. As many as 16,868 (89%) are receiving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) of whom 7,774 (46 %) are from the metropolitan Karachi.
Cities joining the fast-track cities network aim to help cities and municipalities share best practices with one another, thereby supporting urban communities of learning and achieving UNAIDS “95-95-95-95” HIV programmatic targets. In line with the new global AIDS strategy (2021-2026), the fast-track cities are now committed to a more ambitious set of targets (95-95-95) with the addition of fourth 95 target of 95% of at-risk individuals using combination HIV prevention.
An adjunct to these targets is a call for zero stigma and discrimination. Achieving these targets places cities and municipalities on a trajectory towards zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero stigma against those living with and affected by HIV. As the initiative’s primary core technical partner, the IAPAC supports the fast-track cities by providing technical assistance to health departments on data generation, monitoring and reporting, engaging in implementation planning with local stakeholders, delivering capacity-building for clinical and service providers, community-based organizations and affected communities, facilitating activities to eliminate HIV-related stigma in healthcare settings, assessing quality of life among communities of people living with HIV and sharing best practices in relation to policy and programming.
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho, who was present at the MoU signing ceremony, appreciated the UNAIDS for their support to Sindh in becoming part of the fast track cities initiative and hoped that it would bring a positive change in the lives of people living with HIV in Karachi.
Parliamentary Party Secretary Health Sindh MPA Qasim Soomro, Director General Health Sindh Dr Jumman Bahoto, Deputy DG Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Sindh Dr Ershad Kazmi, UNAIDS officials Dr Rajwal Khan, Fahmida Khan and others were present.
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