An unjust socio-cultural stigma surrounding the transmission of HIV in Pakistan has allowed for a 57 percent hike in the spread of the disease. Symptomatic patients refuse to get tested for a diagnosis due to the fear of being shunned by society and experiencing backlash. Neglected by authorities, this widely accepted taboo has gone unaddressed for far too long—at the expense of countless lives.

The fact that only 25,000 out of the 183,000 cases are registered for treatment in the country proves that the system has failed to empower patients to come forward. Additionally, it also compromises the health of countless others who are vulnerable to transmission from those secretly living with HIV. If immediate action is not taken, we may very well see the disease diffuse at an unprecedented rate.

There is good news however; there are many Civil Service Organisations (CSOs) like UNAIDS and UNGASS that work towards eradicating HIV in Pakistan by providing funding to establish control centres. Such initiatives should inspire the government to improve facilities and expand programs like National AIDS Control Program (NACP)—one of the only national organisations working in this field. Abundant testing services, sanitation, subsidised or free treatment are some practical solutions that can be put into practice.

Counteracting the phenomenon of shame being associated with the disease should be the government’s priority, before anything else—services are rendered useless if no one is upfront about reporting symptoms. Increasing awareness will allow for perceptions of HIV patients being unequal, unwanted and a disgrace to be refuted. Incorporating sex education in curriculums will establish the disease like any other and will clarify the preventative precautions that must be taken beforehand. It is pertinent to raise an informed generation that can thwart public opinion organically so that the disease can be controlled methodically.