By: Sher Zada
The time when Pakistan is passing through political turmoil, it will be quite hard to draw the attention of the government toward the alarming situation of increasing HIV cases in the country. But there is no doubt that huddling of politicians after one another sometime uncover the veiled problems to the surface. The political dogging between the governing Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf and the alliance of the opposition has been playing a great role in torching light on the dark ignorance of Sindh government over the increasing no of HIV patients across the Sindh province.
Larkana district of Sindh where the massive scourge of HIV infected patients has been witnessed, planned the way for the experts and observers to criticize that how on large scale the negligence has been happened by the health officials. The negligence has led to outnumbered HIV patients to staff and equipment in hospitals. Until out of 21,375 taken samples more than 681 new HIV positive cases have been identified with in different parts of Sindh province. The matter is of great concerns that majority of the victims were children and women.
The toll of persons infected with HIV could be more, but due to fear of possible risk of stigmatization in public and threat to be thrown out of family or to be harmed, people are hesitated to come forward for voluntarily testing themselves for possible HIV infection. Recently a 32-year-old mother of four who was diagnosed with HIV was hung by her husband in a village of district Shikarpur, Sindh.
However the Sindh police has registered cases against 24 doctors and arrested one named Dr. Ghanghro from Rathodero with accusations of being intentionally spreading the virus, however the police is collecting evidences for further investigations. While scrutinizing HIV cases in the rest of the provinces i.e. Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. Punjab province scores more than 2,800 HIV cases, which has badly hit Faisalabad, Chiniot, Sahiwal, Jhang and Nankana districts. As per available data there are 1,816 HIV registered patients in KP but the gender statistic are quite different than of virus victims in Sindh, here are the majority of HIV victims are men (1,349) as women (391) and children(76).
The scenario of HIV &AIDS in the province of Balochistan is less than three extensively populous provinces, where the no of HIV patients is 1199, however due to lack of availability proper statistics the no of the victims could be doubled than the mentioned. While figuring the estimates of HIV patients has been raised to more than 700 in the recently merged tribal districts (NMTD) of KP. Over all calculation and depending on the statistics provided by the National Aids Control program(NAC|P) ,the no of registered persons with HIV& Aids is 1,50000 out of which 25000 thousands are properly registered and 16000 are on regular medications provided free of costs by the government ,in this context it has been revealed that people living with HIV(PLHIV) in Punjab are 75,000, 60,000 in Sindh while 15,000 are in KP and Balochistan provinces respectively .
The main problem in Pakistan is that people attached the epidemic of HIV with sexual intercourse only, and stigmatize the victims being involved in irregular and informal sexual relationships. These rumors and misconceptions restrict people to test their blood to get diagnosed whether they have been infected with HIV &Aids or not. Secondly there is mass unawareness that the virus is transferred through sexual intercourse. While the reality is contrary to this misconception .
That spreading of the HIV virus happens due to blood contact which is not merely limited to sexual intercourse. Thus if the blood of an infected person comes in contact with the blood of a normal person then the virus transfers within three minutes (approx.) in fitting conditions. Thirdly the people consider that one who is diagnosed with HIV &Aids causes dishonor to the family which is not fair, because nobody wants to be sick and infected with life risking diseases.
Following the recent outbreak in Taluqa Rathodero district of Larkana one can observe that majority of the HIV victims were children, so how one can claim that these children got infected due to sexual contacts? As per medical principles the symptoms of the virus could be detected after eighteen months of birth in children. The dots about this epidemic are not only missing on the part of masses but also lagging in persons attached with medical field(doctors, paramedics, practitioners and nurses) as well, which boast out the epidemic more rapidly in the hospitals and basic health units (BHUs), where the use of contaminated syringes and other surgical equipment is routine activity .The medical staff in these centers mix up the symptoms of HIV( i.e. nausea, vomiting, persistent diarrhea ,chronic fatigue, rapid weight loss, cough and shortness of breath, recurring fever, chills, and night sweats, rashes, sores, or lesions in the mouth or nose, on the genitals, or under the skin) with other common prevailing diseases without prior testing .
This problem could not be settled down only through basic awareness of the masses and proper training of the medical staff but also needs to establish special clinics facilities for HIV infected patients in all the major hospitals across the country to restrict and cure the epidemic in the initial phase as possible .Where the victims can get their Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) treatment and the medicines Antiretroviral Vaccines (ARV’s) properly without any time gape and any disgrace by the staff available at special clinic located in the hospital.
Besides this the government should allocate budget and utilize to establish HIV awareness centers, organize seminars and workshops in the remote rural areas of Sindh, Punjab, KP, Balochistan as well as in the NMTD of KP and Gilgit Baltistan (GB).Thus the ratio of the overspreading life risking epidemic could be controlled and other precious lives could be protected from the HIV virus.