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Lawmakers unite to aid the containment of AIDS

By: Zahid Gishkori

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers across party lines are seeking fresh legislation to control the spread of the HIV/Aids disease, including mandatory pre-consummation HIV tests for couples.

The call for regulation came last week, when Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarrar revealed that the “number of Aids patients in Pakistan crossed the 100,000 mark this year.”

As part of a campaign, lawmakers will first undergo HIV/Aids tests themselves to set an example, independent MNA Jamshed Dasti told The Express Tribune.

The government has established 15 HIV treatment and care centres, according to the National Aids Control Porgramme (NACP). These centres provide comprehensive HIV care services, conduct HIV viral load tests, treatment of HIV-related opportunistic infections (diseases contracted because one’s immune system is compromised) and counselling services. Nearly 3,983 HIV positive people are receiving care at these centres, with 1,725 on life-saving antiretroviral therapy, NACP officials explained.

Aids has killed around 5,800 people in Pakistan, Tarrar said, and people avoid getting tested due to the stigma associated with HIV.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s MNA Asad Umar said HIV/Aids is one concern among several health issues in Pakistan. “If there is fresh legislation needed, so is its implementation,” he told The Express Tribune.

Syed Javed, the NACP manager, said an estimated Rs4.1 billion was collected from the federal and provincial governments to fight this disease, while $23 million was collected from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Karachi with 370 HIV/Aids patients and Peshawar with 200 patients are the worst-hit areas, according to NACP statistics.

Express Tribune