ISLAMABAD   -    Taking notice of reports of HIV AIDS cases in Larkana district of Sindh province, Minister of State for Health Dr Zafar Mirza has directed concerned officials in his Ministry to provide all-out support to Sindh Health Department on urgent basis.

Although the issue is being addressed by the Sindh Health Department as per its mandate, the Federal government is there to provide technical support and necessary advice to arrest the spread of the disease, said Health Minister Dr Zafar Mirza in a statement.

Steps are being taken to investigate the outbreak as well as take necessary remedial measures in support of Sindh Health Department, he added.

On direction of the Health Minister, National AIDS Control Programme alongwith Sindh health officials has started investigation into the HIV outbreak in Larkana.

This would not only help finding out the reasons of the outbreak but would also support in planning an effective preventive and control response to the outbreak.

The Federal team along with Sindh officials are conducting screening of people in the affected areas.

More than 4,100 people have been screened till to date for HIV and a total of 157 positive cases have been identified. Of those 157 cases who tested positive, 127 were children and 30 were adults.

The children tested positive for HIV were between the ages of four months and eight years.

Some 66 HIV positive patients have been registered with ART (AIDS Treatment Centre) centre in Larkana to receive treatment and care whereas Federal government will ensure provision of supplies for treatment of these cases.

Spouses of HIV positive adults and parents of HIV positive children are also been screened.

Pediatric AIDS Treatment Centre in Larkana has also been established to provide treatment facilities for children with HIV. Federal AIDS Control Programme is providing necessary medicines to the Centre.

Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority has sealed 2 blood banks and issued warning to 3 more for non-adherence to safe blood practices out of the 10 blood banks in Larkana to prevent further spread of the disease.

The Federal Health Ministry has extended complete assistance to Sindh Health Department in mitigation efforts such as the continuous supply of HIV Testing Kits and medicines.

On the request of the provincial Health Department, the Federal Ministry has provided 3000 testing kits for HIV screening in Larkana.

The Federal Ministry will also ensure that sufficient ARV drugs are available to cater to the need of all newly diagnosed cases.

Additionally, Federal Ministry is ensuring assistance in specialised HIV investigations like CD4 (Lymphocyte) count and viral load testing.

The Federal government in liaison with UN agencies is conducting a thorough situational analysis in the field and will suggest short term and long-term recommendations as counter-measures for the outbreak.