World AIDS Day passes unnoticed

LAHORE – The World AIDS Day on December 1 passed unnoticed as no government institution or private sector organisation arranged any event to mark the day.

Though no function could be arranged on the designated day due to Eid Miladun Nabi celebrations on December 1, no one bothered to arrange any event before or after the day.

“The entire Muslim world celebrated Eid Miladun Nabi on December 1. It was inappropriate to arrange any other event on that day, but the World AIDS Day could have been marked before or after the specific date. This is not happening this year,” said an official at the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department.

The World Aids Day is being observed globally on December 1 since 1988 to raise awareness about the pandemic, preventive measures and proper treatment of HIV positive patients. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day was “Right to health”.  Though prevalence of HIV/AIDS is not that high, huge gap between the number of identified and actual HIV positive patients is posing serious challenges.

Unlike previous years, no one performed the ritual of seminars, walks and symposiums to mark the day this year. So far, about 7,000 people have tested HIV/AIDS positive. The United Nations, however, estimated that number of HIV/AIDS patients in Pakistan is between 87,000 and 120,000. As such, majority of the patients has yet to be identified. This situation poses a threat of transmission of virus to healthy individuals through matrimonial and extramarital relations, unscreened blood transfusion and reuse of syringes. HIV/AIDS epidemic is taking hold in Pakistan, mostly among drug addicts, male/transgender sex workers and repatriated migrants.

Though the number of confirmed HIV patients is not that high, it’s alarming that majority of these patients is unidentified either due to a lack of awareness about the condition or social stigma attached to the disease. The overall prevalence of HIV infection in adults aged 15 to 49 is 0.1 per cent.

Officials say that majority of cases go unreported due to social taboos about sex and victims’ fears of discrimination.

Currently, the national average prevalence of HIV among drug users is nearly 20 percent. Several cities show concentrated epidemic among male/transgender sex workers as well. Major factor in the overall HIV transmission scenario is the rampant use of therapeutic injections, often with non-sterile injection equipment. There are an estimated 800 million therapeutic injections given annually in Pakistan or approximately 4.5 per capita, the highest in the world. A small but significant proportion of these are reused.

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