Politicking on HIV

Published: May 16, 2019

Nothing else but the recent surfacing of HIV-positive cases in Ratodero — the ancestral home of the Bhutto family that leads the ruling PPP — could easily be referred to indicate the Sindh government’s failures to deliver in the health sector. The latest reports say that the number of HIV-positive cases in the tiny township of Ratodero has climbed to 445 — 356 children and 89 adults. The situation is being viewed as alarming by international organisations, including the UNAIDS, WHO and Unicef. Experts at these organisations, which have already sprung into action to monitor and control the situation, fear that more HIV-positive cases could surface if the screening is carried out in other towns and districts of the province.

The UNAIDS country director for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Dr Maria Elena G Filio Borromeo, who is here to assess the whole situation, regretted that those affected by the virus included children with two and seven months of ages. She warned of an increase in the number of people falling prey to lethal viral infections, including HIV, if the government machinery was not mobilised to strictly check “re-use of unclean needles and unsafe blood transfusion procedures”.

The latest outbreak of HIV is being attributed to the presence and practice of quacks and reuse of syringes even by qualified doctors, besides sale and transfusion of infected blood. But who is responsible for these wrongs and evils? Of course, the Sindh government and its health department. There is already a law passed by the provincial assembly calling for use of auto-destructible or auto-lock syringes. Like many other acts and laws, this law also suffers from want of implementation.

However, the outbreak of HIV is being exploited by the ruling PPP and the PTI-led opposition for point scoring against each other. And that speaks of the commitment of the political leadership on either side of the fence with the common man.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2019.

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