36,000 transgender persons reported HIV positive: Expert

Islamabad – An estimated population of 36,000 transgender persons in major cities of the country was reported HIV positive in the Integrated Biological and Behavioral Surveillance (IBBS) survey, Manager National Aids Control Programme (NACP) revealed this on Friday.

Manager NACP Dr Baseer Achakzai said this in the launching ceremony of Transgender Network Pakistan here. Dr Baseer said that there is a huge gap between registered and estimated number of HIV cases in the country. He said the reported data was collected from 23 big cities and a large number of cases were reported from Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan.According to him, transgender persons are one of the most affected groups by the HIV epidemic and nearly 49 times more than the general population.

“Overlapping social, cultural, legal and economic factors contribute to pushing transgender persons to society’s margins which led them to problems in accessing basic healthcare and other services,” he added.

Dr Baseer said more targeted prevention approaches are required in combination with increased welfare and employment opportunities to address the specific needs of transgender people.

“We as society should think that each individual in the country, including transgender persons have the rights for seeking healthcare services, including HIV treatment and care without any discrimination,” he said.

Dr Baseer added that transgender people across the world experience high levels of stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and abuse, marginalization and social exclusion. This makes them less likely or able to access services, damages their health and wellbeing, and puts them at higher risk of HIV, he said. 

Representative World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Assai Ardakani Representative while speaking on the occasion said launching of the TGN in Pakistan is a great opportunity for the empowerment of transgender Community in Pakistan but there is a need to raise voices and get it heard by those who can support to get empowered the community.

Dr Assi said that community must advocate for universal access to health, social services, education, employment, and rule of law and accountability mechanisms and the people should understand that Transgender are part of this community.

Right to health and right to accessibility of quality healthcare services should be exercised by all, including the transgender community and practicing of safer sex should be advocated and supported within the transgender community.

“Like others, transgender community must be aware of disease transmission and we hope to reach a day that there is not a single transgender suffering from AIDS,” WHO representative said.

Dr Assai Ardakani added that the judgment of Supreme Court of Pakistan – declaring TGs as full and equal citizen of Pakistan is a big milestone in the history of the country and WHO acknowledges health needs of TG community and when it comes to HIV/STIs, testing and treatment facilities should be availed by the TGs to get their status tested and to avail a wide range of HIV prevention services which can be available to help them to maintain a life without HIV.

Country Head UNAIDS Dr Mamadou Lamine SAKHO in his message said that reinvigorating HIV prevention among key populations requires domestic investment to provide key populations with tools that can empower them to raise their voice for their rights.

He said Pakistan is championing in the response to HIV & making progress towards protecting the rights of transgender community and this association will help further strengthen the capacities of this community to access to universal health coverage and precisely to HIV testing treatment, care and social support services.

Representing the Transgender Network in Pakistan Bubbli and Aisha gave an overall brief on the Transgender Association.

They said that the transgender individual in Pakistan faces multilayer social and legal discrimination.

“Violence, poverty, human rights violations, socioeconomic inequality, lack of education, insufficient legal services, deficit law enforcement institution are some of the significant barriers faced by transgender community in every day,” they added.

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