Amidst the lack of hygiene and weak health infrastructures across the country there is a growing statistic that is of concern to the United Nations from a global purview. UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, J V R Prasada Rao, recently exclaimed that Pakistan is one of three countries where the number of new infections is persistently on the rise. Of the countries affected by transmittable diseases in the region, Pakistan is the fourth largest. These facts mean that a devastatingly high number of people are at risk of having to experience various diseases and maladies, perhaps more than once in their lifetimes.
Being one of only three countries where new infections are constantly on the rise, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of combating the spread of disease by 2015 is lofty. Pakistan lacks the necessary features in place to catch and curtail transmission of disease. There is vast ignorance of the people on the transmission of disease and on hygienic practices. Germ-sharing is even supported in some cultural context; sharing the same dinnerware is mythologised to bring two people closer together. For such reasons, a starting point is to have religious and other scholars on board to reach out to the mass populations, who are rendered vulnerable due to their lack of information about health safety.
The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination and provincial health ministers must work to devise and implement a plan to educate the age-relevant populations for AIDS. There is also a need to set up free health check-up clinics and take a proactive approach to monitoring and recording disease discoveries. Greater budget allocation towards the health sector, which is heavily regressive at the moment, is also required. For a developing and susceptible country like Pakistan, this is an opportunity for the health ministry to show that it has a concern for the well-being of its people.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2014.
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