Islamabad: Thirty-one people were tested HIV positive during a screening programme conducted in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Saturday, health authorities said amid a probe by international experts from the WHO to check the outbreak of the deadly virus.
The new cases in Shikarpur district see a surge in cases of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in Sindh after 215 positive cases, including 181 children, were reported in Ratodero district of Larkana last month, Geo News reported.
According to District Health Officer Shabbir Sheikh, 2,500 people were screened out of which 31 tested positive, the report said.
Those that have tested positive were being provided treatment and other amenities according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations.
A delegation of the United Nations bodies, including the WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF, are already in Karachi to help the Sindh health authorities to investigate the alarming outbreak of the HIV in the district.
Main reason behind the spread of HIV virus was revealed to be the use of unsafe blood, unsafe injections and unsafe practice, the WHO Representative Palitha Mahipala said.
Those affected have urged the Sindh government to make HIV medicine readily available at private medical stores apart from government hospitals for easy access.
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said that legislation for the formation of a health commission, to address HIV outbreak, has been completed, she said, the Express Tribune reported.
Dr Pechuho said that the investigation revealed a large number of doctors in Sindh were carrying out unsafe medical practices. Efforts are being made to stop them from doing so.
She also requested the federal government to allocate certain amount in the budget for the production of auto-lock syringes in Pakistan, the report said.
She said that the recent outbreak was a sign that if the issue of HIV is neglected any further, it would result in a dangerous situation.
Federal Health Minister Dr Zafar Mirza also said that federal and provincial governments were working together and the recent HIV outbreak was a wakeup call to improve the healthcare system in the country.
He stressed on the need to make HIV control programme more effective, at national and provincial levels.
He said that Pakistan has the highest number of Hepatitis B cases in the world and Hepatitis C was also turning out to be a big challenge, adding that if not addressed, HIV too would become a big problem.
Citizens have also asked to take adequate measures to counter the disease.
In total, 76.1 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV, since the epidemic started in the 1980s. Some 35 million have died, according to official figures.
Without treatment, HIV-infected people go on to develop AIDS, a syndrome that weakens the immune system and leaves the body exposed to opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, and some types of cancer.
Treatment carries side-effects and is costly, but allows infected people to be healthier for longer.