ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Truckers Project, a brainchild of National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), has hit snags due to bureaucratic inertia and naive approach on the part of the Ministry of Health, sources told TheNation on Wednesday. The ministry declined to endorse the proposal on the pretext that HIV/AIDS is no longer an issue in Pakistan, sources added. Contrary to the ministrys claim that HIV/AIDS is not an issue in the country, the sources told TheNation that more than hundred HIV/AIDS positive cases were discovered only last year in Jalalpur Jattan near Gujrat. Moreover, the source said that it was also on the record that 15 per cent of injecting drug users were carrying the deadly epidemic. After sex workers and injecting drugs users, truck drivers are considered as most vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Therefore, the project was aimed at reducing the behavioural and biological risks of HIV transmission among Pakistans long distance drivers, cleaners, attendants and associated populations involved in trucking business. According to the sources, if the Ministry does not consider the HIV/AIDS an issue in Pakistan so there is no need to continue such project anymore as it was wastage of time and money. All the high-ups of the ministry concerned were contacted by the Family Health International but all in vain as no one properly responded to them. The programme was funded by World Bank and the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) was the focal executing agency. NACP contracted Family Health International (FHI) to implement a package of services, HIV/AIDS Service Package for Long Distance Truckers, Cleaners/Attendants and Associated Populations in nine major cities, including Torkham, Peshawar, Taxila, Gujranwala, Lahore, DG Khan, Sukkur, Karachi and Quetta for three years. FHI further hired nine different NGOs to implement the project in the above mentioned nine cities. The Hamrahi Marakiz established across the nine sites in accordance with the project remained functional as a network providing facilities, including clinical services for primary healthcare (PHC), Sexually Transmitted Infections clinical management, HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), client education, as well as laboratory services for HIV and syphilis testing (Karachi site provided on site testing whereas all the other sites had developed linkages with public and private testing facilities in their respective cities). The project was initiated in February 2006 and it completed its three years on January 31, 2009. During these years, Family Health International (FHI) Pakistan and its partners delivered quality services to target communities with strong support from the core project team. After completion of the first phase the programme was supposed to enter into second phase that was scheduled to start from 2010-13. The World Bank agreed to provide funding the project for another eight months after completion of the first phase and before start of the second earlier next year. When the file was submitted to the Ministry it did not respond promptly that resulted in closure of the project in nine cites. This programme made a number of achievements over the years of project execution, including implementing mutually reinforcing 'Strategic Behaviour Communication package, registration of 72,276 truck drivers and enhanced collaboration and closer working relationship with Provincial AIDS Control Programs. When the Director General of Health Rasheed Jooma was contacted in this regard, he referred to contact NACP programme Manager. When the Programme Manager of NACP, Dr Hasan Abbas Zaaheer was approached, he said; Ministry has turned down the proposal on the basis of the poor performance of HFI and its nine partner executing agencies. After approval of the PC-1 of the NACP for next five years, the programme will enter into the next phase and the NGO who will fulfil the required criteria will be handed over the task to implement the project, he added. A number of attempts were made to contact Joint Secretary Health Khwaja Akbar but he was not available for comments.