Fight against HIV/AIDS during pandemic ‘tougher’

SAPM says Pakistan made significant progress in curbing spread of disease

APP June 14, 2021

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan on Sunday said the COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge to the country’s “vigorous” efforts against HIV/AIDS.

In a video statement at the 2021 meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York, Dr Faisal said government was cognisant of the fact that any delay in the provision of testing and treatment services would leave many vulnerable populations at a greater risk.

He said that the government undertook rapid steps to modify its strategy, including staffing and smart outreach, provision of PPE for all field staff, and multi-month dispensing of antiretroviral treatments.

"As a result, we were able to ensure uninterrupted supply of services during these unprecedented times and we aim to continue to adhere to these revised protocols in close coordination with all partners, communities and relevant stakeholders,” he added.

He maintained that the country had made significant progress in combating HIV/AIDS and it would continue its efforts.

He said in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three, Pakistan had also initiated a programme of universal health coverage for the entire population, which included HIV/AIDS patients as part of the community and primary health care level interventions.

He added that interventions covered under the package included HIV/AIDS testing, counseling, and referral for antiretroviral treatment, provision of prophylactics and syringes to high-risk groups as well as health education.

"We believe universal health coverage is crucial for ensuring the right to health for everyone without any discrimination."

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Dr Faisal said the meeting provided the opportunity to renew the participants’ unswerving resolve to combat HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 in line with SDG number 3 -- 'Health and well-being for all'.

“To achieve tangible outcomes, it is crucial that the international community takes stock of the progress made on the commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, assess the set-backs faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic in this struggle, learn from each other's experiences regarding the adaptation of strategies and best practices in light of the pandemic and reiterate our political commitment to the eradication of HIV/AIDS from the world.”

He said that the SDGs number three and its sub-goals 3.3, relating to fighting communicable diseases, and 3.8, relating to achieving universal health coverage, remained a high priority in the national agenda.

He added that the detrimental impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies, societies and the entire population of the world had reminded the international community to rise above narrow expediencies to prevent and combat HIV/AIDS epidemic in all parts of the world without any discrimination and bias.

The SAPM said HIV/AIDS was a cross-cutting developmental challenge and millions of people of the world cannot continue to be denied their right to development.

“Pakistan welcomes the renewed emphasis to combat HIV/AIDS in the 2021 Political Declaration,” he added.

Dr Faisal said there was an imperative need to accelerate efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, through HIV/AIDS prevention, care, support and treatment, provision of sexual and reproductive health services, community engagement, awareness-raising, and addressing stigma and discrimination.

“The international community needs a global compact on health, where no one is denied their right to health and everyone has universal health coverage. Ending HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 should be one of the priority areas of this global compact which would translate our commitments into tangible actions and outcomes.”