Breaking barriers: HIV, AIDS no more hushed words

Around 600 women register with ‘Positive Female Network’ to discuss the disease.

Our Correspondent March 07, 2015
A health educator uses a syringe to take a drop of blood from a man's finger to conducting an HIV test. PHOTO:AFP

ISLAMABAD: Going against existing odds and breaking all prevalent taboos, around 600 women are gearing up to openly talk about the disease.

The Association of People Living with HIV-Pakistan (APLHIV), with the support of UNAIDS country office for Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, has launched the Positive Female Network (Pofen) for women affected by HIV/AIDS.

Pofen aims to provide the carriers with a platform through which they can exercise their rights for healthy, dignified and respectful lives and become leaders in addressing issues tailored to their needs and rights, free of stigma, discrimination and violence.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Asghar Satti, national coordinator of the APLHIV, said so far 600 women from across the country have registered with the association and the numbers are increasing.

He said the idea of establishing the network was conceived in 2009 by UNAIDS Country Community Mobilisation Adviser Fahmida Khan but did not materialise. However, later, a considerable increase in the number of women with HIV/AIDS forced the APLHIV to establish the network.

“In a country like Pakistan even men don’t find it easy to disclose they are HIV patients,” she said.

Sharing details of the 600 carriers registered with the association, she said the majority are from Punjab and Sindh.

The disease was transmitted to them through their husbands who were HIV positive and drug users, while some were active sex workers, she shared.

National AIDS Control Programme Manager Dr Baseer Achakzai termed the step a milestone in a country where talking about HIV/AIDS is still considered a taboo.

He said it is a fact that many infected women are leading a miserable life in isolation in the country.

“This network will give them a platform to raise their voices and give courage to many others to come out from that life of isolation and fear,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2015.


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