ISLAMABAD - At the request of the ministry of health, a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) arrived in Pakistan yesterday to control outbreak of HIV in Larkana.

A statement issued by the WHO said that such cases were first reported on 25th April, while a major HIV screening programme was started on 28th April. It was expanded on May 8 with deployment of additional health workers and the testing was ongoing, it said.

Following its extensive deliberations with the health authorities of the provincial government and other stakeholders engaged to handle the situation the team will reportedly arrive in Larkana in a day or two.

So far, more than 600 HIV cases have been identified. Majority of the affectees are children and youth. The ill-fated children are mostly below five years of age. Prior to this outbreak, there were over 1200 children diagnosed with HIV who are receiving anti-retroviral treatment in the country, the statement said. On 16th May, local authorities had established a new anti-retroviral treatment clinic for children in Larkana.

Key tasks for the WHO-led team will include ascertaining the source of outbreak and controlling it; providing technical expertise, particularly in the areas of HIV testing, paediatric HIV treatment and family counselling; ensuring adequate supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antiretroviral medicines for both adults and children, as well as promotion of single-use needles and syringes.

The WHO mission will include experts in emergency response management, epidemiology, HIV clinical care, and infection prevention and control from WHO staff as well as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN).

The team will work closely with Ministry of Health and partners, including Aga Khan University, Pakistan’s Field Epidemiology & Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP), UNAIDS and UNICEF in Larkana.