According to the World Health Organisation, about 20,000 new HIV infections are reported in Pakistan every year in what constitutes the highest rate of increase in the cases of the dangerous disease across the region. Even though the figures concern the whole country, at the heart of the problem right now is Sindh. Larkana, the political stronghold of the party that rules the province, has been in the headlines for more than a week. Health authorities in the district are reported to have detected 93 HIV-positive cases since April 24 after screening about 2,796 people. The figure includes as many as 74 children as well. Add to it is the shocking revelation of a doctor deliberately infecting 42 people, including children, with HIV at a public hospital in Ratodero town of Larkana.
Reports from Hyderabad, the second-biggest city of the province after Karachi, are alarming too. Press reports claim 140 HIV-positive cases to have been confirmed over the past years by local health officials, with the age of the infected people ranging between one month and 61 years. Women are also among the carriers of the virus. The figures are reported to have been shared with relevant provincial authorities, including the Sindh AIDS Control Programme, but they seem to be continuing to act casual while there are apprehensions of a rise in the number of cases.
The growing figures are enough of an eye-opener for the authorities to go about adopting emergency measures without wasting any more time. While a preventive route is available on paper, it is not being adopted with the seriousness that the situation warrants. What to call it — inhumane, murderous, criminal, callous, or any things else? Words fail to describe the indifference of the provincial government authorities who continue to slumber while the HIV/AIDS cases continue to rise.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2019.
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