132,000 people in Pakistan living with HIV, survey finds

ISLAMABAD: A new national survey has found that 132,000 people in Pakistan suffer from HIV.

The survey was conducted using a grant from the Global Fund, and took 10 months to complete. It was carried out in 20 cities, in which 60 teams collected data from around 5,000 places. The survey will be officially launched on Oct 3.

The Global Fund is a partnership organisation founded in 2002 to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. It is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and those affected by the diseases, and raises and invests nearly $4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in countries and communities in need.

According to the sources, the survey found that there are 6,000 HIV positive people living in the capital, 60,000 in Punjab, 11,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 3,000 in Balochistan.

Detailed survey report to be launched on Oct 3

It also found that most of the people who were suffering from HIV are people who inject drugs.

The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, is a chronic and potentially life threatening condition caused by HIV. It damages the immune system, severely affecting the body’s ability to fight disease-causing organisms.

HIV can be spread by contact with infected blood, from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, and can also be sexually transmitted. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens the immune system to the point that one develops AIDS.

The manager of the National Aids Control Programme, Dr Baseer Achakzai, told Dawn that there were a number of estimates about HIV patients in Pakistan, making it difficult to give data at any credible platform.

“To address the issue, we asked the Global Fund to allocate funds for a credible survey on HIV patients in Pakistan. We told [them] the last survey was held in 2011, and for the last many years there was a demand that a new survey be held,” he said.

The fund allocated $1 million for the survey, he said. A consortium was established with support from UNAID, and local and international universities provided human resources and support.

Dr Achakzai said a detailed, 400-page report will be launched on Oct 3, which will contain information on HIV in various segments of society and the prevalence of the disease in different age groups.

“Because of the survey, we will be able to make policy to curb the disease and convince international donors to release funds for focused groups,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2017

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