LAHORE: Migrant workers community were the single largest group to contribute to as many as 100,000 cases of HIV/AIDS in Pakistan a documentary screened at the Alhamra Arts Council claimed on Wednesday.
The documentary was shown at an awareness session organised by the Chanan Development Association, to commemorate World AIDS Day, celebrated across the world on December 1. Mohammad Kamran Butt’s documentary titled ‘Ajanay Main’ highlighted the research and work of Nazeer Maseeh and his NGO which provides a support structure and treatment to AIDS patients in Pakistan. Maseeh was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, is one of the earliest individuals identified with HIV/AIDS patients in the country.
Saba Sadiq, a Member of Punjab Assembly and Advisor to the Chief Minister, said that the disease had not only hit the Pakistani society but had also posed a serious challenge to the world. She appreciated the interest the youth had shown in understanding the need for commemorating World AIDS day and said, ‘Youth is a strong driving force and the power they hold must be appreciated’.
Speaking at the session, Khan from CDA said that as many as 3000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 get infected with the disease everyday. He added that currently almost 34 million people around the world were living with HIV/AIDS. Pointing towards a positive change, Khan added that a UN AIDS report released earlier this year indicated that new HIV infections have gone down by almost 21 per cent in the past decade, a decrease in deaths due to HIV/AIDS by the same per cent was also recorded since 2005.
Based on the global theme of ‘Getting to zero’, World AIDS day will be commemorated the world over to work towards ‘zero’ new HIV infections, discrimination and AIDS related deaths. The session was conducted in collaboration with the UNFPA and a global NGO working on educating the youth on issues including reproductive and sexual health, Youth-Peer (Y-Peer).
Sarah Afzal, communication officer at Y-Peer said it was encouraging to see youth highly sensitised towards these issues. Tariq Mehmood from Sanjog, an NGO which works for the rights of children and youth, said ‘injecting’ drug users are highly prone to HIV/AIDS. He added that drug abuse is taking prevalence amongst the youth and in the process increased the risks of infection through the use of unsterilised needles.
Raazia Naqvi, a professor at the Punjab University, said that information pertaining to HIV/AIDS needs to be incorporated in to the syllabi. Prof. Naqvi proposed that youth should be encouraged to work in groups and communities infected by the disease, ensuring elimination of the stigma which is attached to the infected patients.
Host of the show, ‘Voice of youth’, Taranjeet Singh highlighted the significance of media in spreading awareness of issues relating to HIV/AIDS.
Nazoora Ali, a Program Manager at the Rutger-World Population Fund, also spoke at the occasion and held an interactive session with the audience on issues of HIV/AIDS.
The participants proposed regular screening of blood banks and proper disposal of used syringes and needles. Much of the discussion focussed on the spread of the disease through sexual relationships which involve multiple partners. However, the documentary screened at the session showed that though sexual relations with ‘known partners’ statistically decreased the incidence of HIV/AIDS, the spread of the disease in Pakistan was reported primarily through immigrant Pakistani workers in the Middle East.
Students also presented speeches on how to avoid the spread of the disease and how to ensure people infected with HIV/AIDS are allowed to live as respected citizens of the society.