HIV/AIDS: Pakistan has one of Asia’s highest HIV prevalence rates

New UNAIDS report urges more investment into national response to tackle aid.


Express August 27, 2011

KARACHI:


Pakistan is among the 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific which houses a majority of the people infected with HIV, according to a new report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).


Neighbouring India and China are also on the list, which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Launched at the 2011 International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), the report, titled HIV in Asia and the Pacific: “Getting to Zero”, found that more people than ever before have access to HIV services across the region. But most countries in the region are a long way from achieving universal access goals for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in Pakistan nearly doubled from 11% in 2005 to 21% in 2008. The greatest source of a spread in the virus was use of drug injections and the UNAIDS says that an estimated one in five people who inject drugs in Pakistan are HIV-positive.

Across the region, the report states, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and populations at higher risk of infection remain rife. About 90% of the countries in the region retain punitive laws and policies that effectively prevent people living with HIV from accessing life-saving HIV services.

Data suggest that a significant proportion of new HIV infections within key populations are among young people under the age of 25. In most settings, HIV prevention programmes are failing to sufficiently reach young people most at risk.

More AIDS resources urgently needed

The AIDS response in Asia and the Pacific is underfunded, the report found. Pakistan, it states, is among the five countries that funds the bulk of its HIV response from domestic sources but many countries in Asia depend heavily on foreign funding, particularly for the provision of antiretroviral therapy.

Increased investment of domestic resources, especially in middle-income countries, is critical for the ongoing regional response to HIV, says UNAIDS.

“Getting to zero new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific will demand national responses based on science and the best available evidence,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “HIV programmes must be sufficiently resourced and solidly focused on key populations. Investments made today will pay off manifold in the future.”



Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.

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COMMENTS (22)

Sajjad Hussain | 9 years ago | Reply

Stop mud slinging.Concentrate on how reduce/treat AIDS and hepatitis effectively in both the countries.

Ramnath | 9 years ago | Reply

There seem to be gross errors in the data cited in this article. According to the UNAIDS and UNICEF website, the HIV prevalence in the general population in Pakistan is currently 0.1%. Even if this prevalence has doubled, that would make the currently prevalence 0.2%. This is a huge difference from the prevalences of 11% and 21% cited in this article. It might be that the prevalence of HIV in injection drug users is approaching 21%; however, this is a very high risk group. A 21% prevalence in injection drug users is very different from a 21% prevalence in the general population.

This is not to say that the current prevalence estimates might not be significantly understated, nor am I saying that greater efforts shouldn't be made to curb the HIV epidemic in Pakistan. However, it is crucial that these newspaper articles get the statistics correct, rather than incorrectly citing data in an alarmist fashion. I would recommend that you publish a correction to this article immediately.

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