Islamabad - Over 18,000 individuals were screened for HIV in Larkana out of which 607 were detected positive, officials said yesterday citing a report by National Aids Control Programme (NACP).

According to NACP, controlled by federal Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), 607 cases in Sindh and Larkana were detected positive.

Forty-nine percent HIV positive individuals were male and 51 percent were female. The report presented in Senate Standing Committee on NHS, available with The Nation said that most of HIV positive people were children.

The number of children was counted 444, of which more than 73 percent aged between 2-5 years, whereas 27 percent children had age between 6-15 years.

Report said that parents of majority of the HIV positive children were HIV negative indicating that parent had not transmitted the virus to their kids. That also suggested that poor infection control practice, quackery or blood transfusion were the real reasons behind propagation of virus.

It also said that third highest group was aged between 16-45 years (18.5 percent). As many as 366 of the positive cases have been linked to HIV treatment center at Larkana (Chandkha Medical College Hospital) of which 310 children and 56 adults.

Report said that NACP had provided 3000 rapid diagnostic HIV testing kits for virus screening in Larkana and also disbursed sufficient quantity of drugs to Larkana to cater the need of all newly-diagnosed cases.

It added that NACP was also providing assistance and support in specialized HIV investigation and viral load testing by providing additional supplies and CD$ machines to Larkana.

NACP also supported the establishment of a pediatric art center at Larkana by proving all reporting tools and human resources in addition to existing HIV treatment center at Chandka Medical College Hospital.

NACP technical team was sent to Larkana to coordinate with Sindh Aids Control Programme (SACP) in outbreak response investigation and management.

It also said that NACP was mobilising UN partners WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS and Global Fund to effectively address and halt the outbreak.

The report said that 15 children tested positive for HIV virus on April 25 suffered from symptoms of persistent weight loss and fever, and had been referred for HIV testing to a government-contracted management centre.

It added that 15 children were later sent to a referral laboratory of the Sindh AIDS Control Programme (SACP) for confirmation and as per report shared by SACP three cases were confirmed on the first day.

Report said that as parents of the infected children were HIV non-reactive (negative), parent-to-child transmission was ruled out and other modes of transmission including transfusion of unscreened blood and reuse of injection equipment such as syringes or drip sets were suspected.

Report also mentioned that Pakistan was notorious for profuse use of unsafe injection and blood transfusion practices, exacerbated by unchecked medical practices of untrained health care providers/quacks.

As HIV screening of close and associated contacts continued, the number of reactive cases also continued to increase creating a situation of grave concern for both the provincial and national governments the general public as well.

Report said that as the situation became more precarious, recommendations were made for appropriate mitigation measures to halt spread of further transmission.

Sindh Aids Control programme also worked in close coordination with technical experts from NACP, UN and development partners who were present in Larkana to deliberate upon the outbreak, support SACP in investigating and analyzing the situation for appropriate corrective measures as well to ensure that the identified cases are linked to HIV treatment.