Discovery of HIV/AIDS cluster triggers panic in Chiniot

Published: August 1, 2017
A view of Bhatti Wala Village where HIV/AIDS cases were reported. PHOTO: APP

A view of Bhatti Wala Village where HIV/AIDS cases were reported. PHOTO: APP

FAISALABAD: Residents of Chiniot are experiencing the worst nightmare of their life as an unusual cluster of Human Immune Deficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) cases has been discovered in a small village.

At least 42 people were tested positive for HIV/AIDS. However, the health officials said they could not confirm the cases as they have sent the samples to Lahore lab and are waiting for the test results. The HIV/AIDS scare created panic among the people and many families shifted to other areas and districts to keep themselves safe from contracting the deadly disease.

Punjab home to majority of Pakistan’s AIDS patients

The health functionaries immediately took notice of the situation and established a camp in the area. They took blood test strip samples of 70 people, including females, children and of them 42 were tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Those infected included 27 females, 14 males and a seven-year-old girl. In wake of the alarming situation, the provincial health department initiated a special campaign to combat the deadly virus.

While speaking to The Express Tribune, District Health Officer Dr Musthaq Bashir said, “Realising the gravity of the situation, we called another team from Lahore which took blood samples of more than 100 people from Chak No 127, Bhatti Wala Village and sent them to the laboratory. We are still waiting for the test results.”

He added, “We are not concealing the results of the tests. The samples which were found HIV positive in the strip test were sent to Lahore for comprehensive checkup.”

He commented that the health department cannot declare anyone HIV positive on the strip test unless we get an authentic report from Lahore lab.

A resident of the area Jamil Ahmad told The Express Tribune that the village is in grip of HIV/AIDS. He claimed that so far, 42 people have been tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Similarly, Qaiser, a resident of Bhatti Wala Village said, “When the health officials took my strip test, I was declared HIV positive. However, when I went to a private laboratory for the test, my sample report turned out to be negative.”

He said five members of his family have also been tested positive for HIV/AIDS virus after the health officials conducted strip tests at the camp.  He complained, “We are facing the worst situation of our lives. The health department has shown irresponsible attitude by declaring us HIV positive without confirming the reports.”

Similar complaints were also received by The Express Tribune where people blamed the health department officials of carrying out strip tests and declaring them HIV/AIDS positive. While taking notice of the complaints, Chiniot Health Department CEO Dr Mahar Akhtar Hussain Baloch and District Health Officer Dr Mushtaq Bashir rushed to the area to inquire the actual situation from the people.

HIV/AIDS cases post an uptick in Pakistan

The officials conducted the strip tests of the affected people again and they were tested positive for HIV/AIDS. The health authorities decided to launch a comprehensive screening of the people in the district so as to identify the presence of hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases.

While commenting on the outbreak, Dr Akhtar Hussain told The Express Tribune, “We will inform the media as soon as we will get results from the laboratory in Lahore.” He said it is a misperception that HIV develops in a body only due to sexual relations. “Usage of affected blood syringe, blood transfer with HIV patient, and use of one blade for different shaves are also the reasons of spread of HIV/AIDS.”

He claimed that during the awareness campaign, our focus will be on barber shops which are the main source of spreading various deadly diseases.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2017.

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