PESHAWAR: The government’s health authorities have joined hands with international donor agencies to combat another kind of scourge in the troubled tribal areas – HIV/AIDS. A series of activities aimed at raising public awareness and responsiveness towards the causes and prevention of the debilitating disease have been carried out in December by declaring it as HIV/AIDS awareness month.
Dr Shaima Malik of AIDS Control Programme said that the month-long prevention and control initiative, supported by UNICEF and UNAIDS, was rolled out in a phase-wise manner starting on World AIDS Day on December 1.
The first phase of the drive focused on the capacity building of professionals delivering healthcare through a series of training workshops for doctors, lady health visitors, nurses and laboratory technicians posted in various tribal units.
In this connection, a training workshop was conducted by a team of medical experts to heighten the healthcare professionals’ awareness about the causes and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
“Since there are no humanitarian and developmental organizations from the private sector working in the realm of HIV/AIDS control in the tribal areas, it becomes the sole responsibility of these health professionals to raise public awareness about the disease”, said Dr Malik.
As part of the AIDS Control Programme, facilities for free diagnostic services had been ensured to patients with
HIV in each agency headquarter hospital.
In the second phase, focus shifted toward community centered activities such as deployment of mass media for public awareness and advocacy seminars for high risk groups.
“We have been focusing primarily on prevention rather than cure. As there is no treatment currently available for HIV, the only viable option we have is to educate people about preventative measures”, said Dr Fawad Khan, Director Health Services Fata, while referring to their initiatives regarding public sensitisation.
An advocacy seminar for truck drivers in Fata, a high risk group, included a comprehensive overview about the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Similarly, a media campaign disseminating critical information on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS was launched via billboards, public service messages and print collateral in the region.
“HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic which can infect anyone, anywhere. If the disease doesn’t make any exception in choosing its victim, why should we, in our fight
to eradicate this menace?” asked Dr Malik.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2010.