ISLAMABAD / RAWALPINDI: After it emerged that used syringes were used leading to an HIV epidemic in Sindh, the federal government has decided to introduce auto-disable syringes in the country from next year to eliminate the risk of infections and diseases from repeat use of syringes.
This was stated by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Sunday while talking to a private news channel.
He added that the health ministry will first make it mandatory for all government-run health facilities to use auto-disable (AD) syringes followed by private health centres to avoid further complications for citizens.
Explaining the dangers of reusing syringes and needles, he said that even the re-use of an insulin pen needle could increase bacterial growth on the needle and can cause infections such as those of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
“By the end of the first quarter of next year, we hope to eliminate disposable syringes in private sector hospitals and replace them with auto-lock syringes,” he said, adding, “we have had comprehensive talks with relevant stakeholders, including manufacturers and importers.”
He added that the health ministry has launched an investigation into the recent outbreak of HIV in Larkana, adding that based on preliminary findings, they immediately imposed a “ban on the use of injections at the clinics” run by General Practitioners (GPs).
“Reuse of syringes is the major cause of spreading viral disease among children in Larkana,” he said, adding that it is responsible for the rise of Hepatitis B and C cases in other parts of the country.
Moreover, he said that an injection safety committee and a task force has been formed at the national level.
The task force has been working diligently over the past few months and plans to introduce auto-destruct syringes which can only be used once, he added.
The SAPM on minister further urged pharmacists to play their role in educating the public on injection safety as well as the adverse reactions to drugs.
The health ministry, he said, will launch a massive media campaign discouraging unnecessary injections in the coming months.
“We are also talking to provinces to stop procuring disposable syringes for public hospitals,” he said, adding that multi-sectoral efforts are needed to combat this issue and protect the coming generations.
Dr Mirza stressed the need for cutting down the use of injections and improving hygiene protocols at all medical facilities, including private clinics. Apart from reusing syringes — even after changing needles, he said that multi-dose vials also need to be avoided when possible.
Furthermore, he said that there is a need to tackle the injection culture since 95 per cent of the injections which are administered in the country is unnecessary.
“Pakistan is among the leading countries where a person gets eight to nine injections on average per year,” he said.
The SAPM said the government has been spending millions on facilitating patients with Hepatitis C and AIDS apart from introducing new ways in the field of medicine and that every hospital needs to have infection prevention and control systems.
Dengue cases witness fall
With the temperature plummeting, there has been a significant drop in the number of dengue cases in the city.
A Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC) official on Sunday said that only around 50 to 60 people had been brought to the allied hospitals over the past four days, compared to the 150-190 suspected dengue patients brought in daily at the height of the transmission season.
The official hoped that in the coming days, dengue fever patients will witness a further decrease. He urged the public to remain careful during the early hours and evening as it was the peak time for mosquitos to bite.
Moreover, as part of preparations against next year’s dengue season, Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner (DC) Saifullah Dogar has sought recommendations from all 12 district administration departments for a “micro dengue plan”.
The plan for anti-dengue campaign 2020 will be constituted in light of these recommendations while work on it will commence from February 15, 2020.
Under the plan, the city will be divided into different zones, sectors and clusters. Areas from where the most dengue cases were reported during the current season will be placed in the A+ category. All related medicines and equipment will be arranged before the campaign launches while free bottles of dengue spray will be distributed amongst citizens as well.
The district government will also organize seminars, workshops and awareness walks to sensitise the public regarding the dangers associated with the virus while there would be anti-dengue lecture programs in educational institutions too.
Meanwhile, the district government has decided to carry on its anti-dengue campaign during winter season however the number of daily dengue review meetings will also be reduced from next week.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2019.