Karachi’s Central district has the highest HIV positive cases, Larkana have the second-highest

Dr. Kazmi blames the rampant use of therapeutic injections in Pakistan as one of the leading causes of increasing HIV transmission in the country.

A study has observed that the majority of people diagnosed with HIV in Sindh reside in the Central District of Karachi. According to the Communicable Diseases Control (CDC) officials in Sindh, a total of 2,725 people have been infected with the viral infectious disease.

Speaking at a training workshop for journalists, Dr. Irshad Kazmi, Additional Director, CDC (HIV/AIDS) Sindh, said:

Karachi’s Central district has the highest number of people living with HIV in the province, while Larkana is on the second spot with 2,430 HIV-positive people, of whom over 1,200 are children. Overall, Karachi has over 6,768 people living with HIV, the highest number of HIV-infected people in the province.

What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

About the training workshop

UNAIDS has collaborated with the CDC Directorate of the Sindh Health Department, UNFPA, and the health committee of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) to organize a two-day interactive training workshop titled ‘Role of the Media in Strengthening HIV Response’. Journalists from local, regional, and international media have been invited to the workshop. They are being trained on sensitive reporting on HIV, AIDS, population, gender-based violence, and sexually transmitted diseases.

The reason behind rapidly increasing HIV cases in Sindh, Pakistan

Dr. Kazmi blames the rampant use of therapeutic injections in Pakistan as one of the leading causes of increasing HIV transmission in the country. Dr. Kazmi claimed: 

Over 800 million therapeutic injections are given annually in Pakistan, which means that each person gets 4.5 injections per year, the highest number globally.

According to Dr. Kazmi, the other major contributing factor behind increasing HIV transmission in the country is the presence of thousands of quacks, who are involved in unsafe injection practices and poor infection prevention control. He said:

Even the international disease control and donor agencies have blamed these two factors as the major cause of HIV outbreaks among children in the Ratodero area of Larkana.

Alarming HIV stats in the province

The expert estimates that around 70,000 to 78,000 people are infected with HIV in Sindh, of whom 15,952 are registered with the CDC Directorate. Data suggests that of these 15,952 people, 13,864 individuals (9,166 men, 2,461 women, 1,126 male children, 730 female children, and 421 transgender persons) are on having treatment and receiving antiretroviral drugs. Dr. Kazim shared:

So far, 1,939 people infected with HIV, registered with the health department, have lost their lives in the province, including 1,492 men, 217 women, 131 male children, 72 female children, and 27 transgender persons.

Doctors urge media to step in and educate people about HIV

Urging media to resort to positive, objective, and ethical reporting, Dr. Kazmi stated:

Due to unsafe injection practices and poor infection prevention and control issues, there may exist a large group of people who are infected with HIV and don’t even know their status. I urge the media to encourage high-risk people to get tested for infectious diseases to avail themselves of the treatment.

The doctor further shared:

HIV infection is treatable, and hundreds of people infected with HIV are living normal lives by taking regular medicines. Medicines for HIV treatment are being provided free of charge to the patients registered with us.

Newly-appointed UNAIDS Country Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ms. Yuki Takemoto, also addressed the issue and said:

The role of the media is vital in removing the stigma attached to HIV and discrimination being faced by HIV-positive people as it is depriving them of living a normal life, seeking medical assistance, and having respect in their societies. The role of media is not only to inform but also to educate and form public opinion. The media has the knowledge and expertise to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. We are seeking to partner with local media to deal with HIV by 2030.

UNAIDS experts Fahmida Khan and Dr. Rajwal Khan shared the alarming HIV statistics of Pakistan and urged the journalists to play their role in helping people living with HIV reach out for treatment.

The two-day training workshop for journalists ended on Tuesday. The closing session featured speeches from infectious diseases experts from UNFPA and senior journalists. The speakers addressed working journalists and talked about issues related to HIV treatment facilities, gender-based violence, and the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases.

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