“All is not well Dr Faisal, The HIV/ AIDS situation in Pakistan is getting worse day by day said Dr. Sharaf Ali Shah, an internationally acclaimed expert on HIV/AIDS in Pakistan, on Monday in response to Prime Minister’s Special Assistant, Dr. Faisal Sultan’s video statement during the 2021 high level meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York.
Dr. Shah said that unfortunately Government’s response including provincial and federal Governments, is slow and pathetic. He said that he has gone through the recorded message for a high level meeting in New York and wanted to bring some facts to Dr Faisal’s attention.
Pakistan is among few countries in the world where new HIV/ AIDS cases are increasing at alarming rates while in many countries new HIV infections are decreasing rapidly, he said. He said that between 2010 and 2018 during the past 10 years HIV infections rose by 75% in Pakistan and about 22000 new HIV AIDS cases are added every year. Other countries in the Asia Pacific region where HIV / AIDS cases were increasing include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Philippines and some Central Asian countries, he added. Dr. Shah said that the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) estimates about 180,000 HIV / AIDS cases in Pakistan.
Of total estimated cases only 14% know their HIV status and only 23,592 (13%) receive Antiretroviral treatment, Dr. Shah said. Those who receive ART, adherence to treatment is a big challenge. Addressing Dr Faisal, he said on the subject of universal coverage, the predominant mode of HIV transmission in Pakistan is through injecting drug use only but a fraction of total People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) in the country are covered through the Harm Reduction Program to reduce their vulnerability for HIV / AIDS.
Dr. Shah claimed that there is no rehabilitation program for recovering drug users in the country. Substitution therapy, which is an important component of harm reduction programs such as Methadone, doesn’t exist in the country. TB and HIV coinfection is an emerging problem in Pakistan, only a fraction of total incident TB cases are screened for HIV and only few people living with HIV receive INH prophylaxis.
The Recent HIV outbreak among children in Ratodero of Larkana district, which was reported in April 2019, created a serious concern on a global level, and is forgotten by the Government even by international donor agencies. More than 1600 HIV infected children in the small town of Ratodero and adjoining villages are struggling for their life without sufficient support from the government, Dr. Shah concluded.
During May 17-25, as many as 91 people were tested at Ratodero screening laboratory out of which six were detected positive which means HIV positive cases continue to emerge in Ratodero as official data is not being shared with media persons for fear of getting defamed.