Nearly 100,000 people in the country are living with HIV/AIDS, but only 15,370 are registered with 21 HIV treatment centres, these staggering statistics were shared by Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar in the Senate during question-hour on Wednesday.
The HIV/AIDS patients are being provided medicines and medical treatment free-of-charge, the Senate was told.
The minister said that the reason for low registration rate was the stigma attached to the disease. “We are also treating certain patients who are not registered. AIDS is prevalent in certain pockets of some areas of the country. These patients are being treated under the globally-funded AIDS Control Programme.”
Dispelling notions about the spread of AIDS, she said there was no single way for the spread of the disease. “People can get infected through dental treatment and blood transfusion.”
When asked if the country was producing medicines to control the disease, the minister said that it was a demand-based market. Furthermore, provinces were preparing their own PC-1s and also allocating to the AIDS control programme.
Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja said the number of patients with the disease was much larger than figures quoted by the government. “Was the government providing free medicines to such patients?”
The minister said that registered patients were being treated and given free medicines while medicines were also available in the market. “The ministry will consider pharmaceutical companies and investors willing to offer their support in this regard,” she added.
Senator Kulsoom Parveen underlined the need for creating public awareness and counseling for the disease, to which the minister replied that creating awareness was a major component of the control programme.
Maternal and child mortality
The maternal mortality rate in Pakistan is 276 per 100,000 births, the health minister admitted.
She said that the maternal and child mortality rate in the country was one of the highest in the world. She said the main reasons for this were poor nutrition, early marriages, lack of accessibility to healthcare facilities and social taboos.
When asked when the figure for maternal mortality decline from 276 to zero, the minister could not give a definitive answer.
She said that the federal government was working with provincial governments and the figure was expected to drop substantially over the next couple of decades.
Listing measures taken by the government to control maternal mortality rate, the minister said that an action plan on Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (RMNCH) was being prepared to achieve MDG targets by the end of the year.
Through the RMNCH Trust Fund, the ministry, in collaboration with provinces, partner agencies and regions, was training community midwives and other medical personnel, strengthening human resource and delivery system.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2016.