According to officials from Sindh’s communicable diseases control (CDC), Karachi’s district Central has the largest number of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) patients in Sindh, with 2,725 individuals afflicted with the viral infectious illness.
Addressing a training workshop for journalists in Karachi, CDC (HIV/AIDS) Sindh Additional Director Dr. Irshad Kazmi said, “Karachi’s Central district has the highest number of people living with HIV in the province, while Larkana is on the second spot with 2,430 HIV positive people, of whom over 1,200 are children. Overall, Karachi has over 6,768 people living with HIV, which is the highest number of HIV infected people in the province.”
The two-day interactive training, titled ‘Role of the Media in Strengthening HIV Response,’ is being organized by UNAIDS in collaboration with the Sindh Health Department’s CDC Directorate, UNFPA, and the health committee of the Karachi Press Club (KPC), where journalists from local, regional, and international media are being trained on sensitive reporting on HIV and AIDS, population, and other health issues.
According to Dr. Kazmi, one of the leading causes of increasing HIV transmission in Pakistan is the widespread use of therapeutic injections. Over 800 million therapeutic injections are given annually in Pakistan, which means that each person receives 4.5 injections per year, the highest rate in the world.
“The other major contributing factor behind increasing HIV transmission in the country is the presence of thousands of quacks, who are involved in unsafe injection practices and poor infection prevention control,” he said, adding that even the international disease control and donor agencies had blamed these two factors as the major causes of HIV outbreak among children in the Ratodero area of Larkana.
According to the expert, around 70,000 to 78,000 people in Sindh are infected with HIV, with 15,952 of them registered with the CDC Directorate, and 13,864 of them on treatment and receiving antiretroviral drugs, including 9,166 men, 2,461 women, 1,126 male children, 730 female children, and 421 transgender people.
Dr Kazmi said, “So far, 1,939 people infected with HIV, who were registered with the health department, have lost their lives in the province, including 1,492 men, 217 women, 131 male children, 72 female children, and 27 transgender persons.”
According to the health official, there may be a significant number of individuals infected with HIV who are unaware of their status due to hazardous injecting methods and inadequate infection prevention and control problems.
“HIV infection is treatable and hundreds of people infected with HIV are living normal lives by taking regular medicines. Medicines for the HIV treatment are being provided free of charge to the patients registered with us,” he added.
UNAIDS specialists Fahmida Khan and Dr. Rajwal Khan presented Pakistani statistics and encouraged journalists to assist individuals living with HIV by utilizing multimedia presentations and data.