02 December, 2010

World AIDS Day observed in Pakistan

‘Prevention helps in overcoming HIV’

Published in Pakistan Observer on 2 Dec. 2010
Sana Jamal

“HIV/AIDS is not only a health issue but a developmental problem and the only way to overcome this menace of by taking individual responsibility of our own lives as well as of people around us.” This point was highlighted by Minister for Health, Makhdoom Shahab-ud-Din in his message on World AIDs Day which was observed around the globe on Dec. 1.

World AIDs Day was celebrated in Islamabad with a seminar organised by National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), Ministry of Health.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister Health said that HIV/AIDS is a developmental issue which can retract the social, economical, cultural and educational growth of a country. Hence “Prevention is our most powerful and effective weapon against the disease” he added. Minister also lauded the efforts of NACP in educating the masses and said that we should move ahead and start a new era of individual responsibility while pushing aside the stigmas, blame and discriminatory behaviour as a nation.

Mr. Donglin Li, representative of International Labour Organization (ILO) while addressing the audience said that theme for World AIDS Day 2010 is “Universal Access and Human Rights” has been chosen to address the critical need to protect human rights and attain access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. While sharing statistics, he said that that the good news is that there is decrease in HIV/Aids since last year.

An official of World Health Organization while pledging to increase support to government agencies to fight the menace of Aids stressed that everyone has the responsibility to stop the epidemic and take good care of patients.

The seminar also included a demonstrative stage play to highlight the causes, prevention and control of the disease which was highly appreciated by the audience. The play conveyed the message that HIV patients need proper care and affection.

Palwasha, an HIV+ patient also shared her life experience with the audience on this occasion, that how she was infected by the disease due to blood transfusion. She requested the Minister and the audience to discourage discriminatory behavior with HIV patients and to deject prevailing social taboos in the society.

Dr Sajid Ahmed, manager NACP while addressing the participants said due to the non-release of funds the activities of the programs were affected and remained limited.
Pakistan is a high risk country and due to low literacy rate, low spending on health and education poverty, rapid rural-urban migration, stigma and socio-cultural norms, the disease can spread rapidly, Sajid said.

Pakistan is the second largest country in south Asia that stands only a few steps behind India and Nepal in terms of HIV epidemic, he said.
Sharing statics he said that according to national HIV estimates, there are approximately 97,400 HIV positive cases in the country out of which 3,983 are registered and around 1,800 are under treatment. While there are 91,000 estimated number of Injecting Drug Users (IDUS), 63,000 male sex workers, 43,000 transvestite sex workers and 136,000 female sex workers approximately in the country.

National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) has launched a campaign in connection with World AIDS Day. The campaign will cover diverse range of audience and will include activities such as sports events, posters and story competitions, interactive street theatres, stage shows, musical concerts, youth theatre performances, and a youth conference on sexual and reproductive health and rights.