Eighteen blood banks were sealed in Qambar Town, Sindh as teams of the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) and the Sindh Aids Control Programme (SACP) carried out joint raids on several blood banks in the city on Monday. The action came after 49 cases of HIV/Aids surfaced in the district. This is alarming because Pakistan officially refused to acknowledge Aids as a problem plaguing the country, till a couple of years ago. It was only in April 2014 that President Mamnoon Hussain affirmed his commitment to continue and increase efforts to respond to HIV in the country, thus bringing Aids in the official political discourse.

The sealed blood banks were found using inferior quality infrastructure and substandard chemicals. Some blood transfusion staffers at their laboratories were using one syringe for more than one individual and without supervision of a qualified doctor. These are the most basic precautions to be taken before a blood transfusion. They point to the glaring gaps in awareness and education of healthcare ‘professionals’ who have set up shop without meeting regulations and are allowed to do so without any repercussions.

The deaths from HIV/Aids in Pakistan has increased from 350 in 2005 to 1,480 in 2015, showing an average increase of 14.42 percent a year, according to the findings of the meta-analysis coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle. The number of HIV infections in Pakistan continues to grow at an average of 17.6 percent a year from 8,360 to 45,990 during the period under review. The Global Fund has recently approved a concept note for Asian countries, including Pakistan, under which $16 million has been approved for the country for year 2016-17 to support its fight against HIV/Aids. Lack of funding might be less of an issue, the real problem is fighting the taboo around the disease to bring it in the light of day.