Karachi worst hit by HIV in Sindh with 67.2% cases
KARACHI: The number of registered HIV cases in all districts of Sindh province has risen to 14,582 with Karachi having highest number of cases up to 9810 (67.2%), according to a new investigative report.
The present status of registered HIV cases in Sindh is just a tip of iceberg because the actual number of HIV cases in Sindh is estimated at 61,000. So far, 10,547 patients are on ART treatment. This shows that the pace of registration is still slow due to low awareness campaigns by the Sindh health department.
Furthermore, despite worldwide attention toward HIV cases in Pakistan, HIV staff in Karachi has not been paid salaries since five months, which is a big negativity of the government. This is also affecting work by staff, revealed the investigative report made by journalist M Nawaz Khuhro under a fellowship program organized by Pakistan Press Foundation based in Karachi.
National Aids Control Program’s (NACP) latest data shows there are an estimated 58,634 adults living with HIV in Sindh province while enhanced HIV/AIDs Control Program Sindh has registered 2300 HIV positive children in the province by 30 September 2019.
In Karachi’s HIV centers, registered cases breakup is as Civil Hospital Karachi (6774), CHK Paeds (400), SG Lyari General Hospital (398), Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (215), Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (204), Indus Hospital (1536), Aga Khan Hospital Adults (155) and AKU Paed (125).
In interior Sindh HIV centers, Liaquat University Hospital Hyderabad (859), Chandka Medical College Hospital Larkana (2835), CMCH Children Hospital Larkana (761) and GMMMCH Sukkur (250). At Ratodero Centre, 811 people have been found HIV positive. NACP data shows that at Ratodero centre, screening of 37,558 people was conducted from 25th April to 30th November 2019, out of which 1,195 were founded suspected HIV positive with 951 children and 244 adults. All those suspected HIV cases were referred to HIV Treatment Center for confirmation, out of which 895 cases were found HIV positive with 754 children and 141 adults.
They have been linked to HIV Treatment Center.
In an interview to this journalist, Dr Nabila Soomro, Incharge Referral Lab SACP II, Civil Hospital Karachi, said that SACP had launched a mobilization campaign among people of Sindh to raise awareness among them about HIV disease after which more and more people were voluntarily visiting HIV centers in Karachi.
She said that all HIV centers in Karachi were registering people properly besides providing them full medical cover free of cost. Our teams have also visited Central Prison and other jails in Karachi and conducted tests of the prisoners. In Central Prison, 347 prisoners were screened out of which only two HIV cases were confirmed positive while all child or women in Landhi and other jails were found free of HIV which is a positive thing, Dr Nabila informed.
In an interview at CHK, a HIV lady victim, said that in society, people hate HIV patients in fear that they might be infected by them through touching or living with them, but this conception is totally wrong.
Fact is that HIV does not spread with touching or living together, as it spreads through reuse of syringes, razors, HIV-infected mother’s milk to child and sex with any HIV person.
In an interview at JPMC HIV center, an HIV victim, aged 39, said that he developed HIV through sex activity with sex workers at Defence area of Karachi. He said that HIV mainly develops from multiple sex acts and then it spreads through reuse of syringes and razors from one person to another.
The HIV victim said that he knew HIV infection through test at JPMC center some months back. “Before it, I was suffering from frequent fevers, allergy and motions. Within two months, my weight went down to 69 kg from 84 kg. He said that there was need to raise awareness about HIV so as to register more cases and provide treatment to the affectees.
He said that now he had stopped sex activities and was passing life in tension. He said that he had still not informed his family, friends and relatives about his HIV disease because he feared that they would isolate him.
In an interview, Provincial Program Manager, Sindh AIDS Control Program (SACP), Dr Sikandar Ali Memon, said that the Sindh government had allocated Rs600 million budget for HIV/AIDs control program in current financial year out of which Rs150 million had been released as a first quarter payment .
To a question about what is the new strategy to tackle the disease, Mr Memon said that under the new strategy, 976 lady health workers had been trained to raise awareness among people about HIV disease and pursue them for getting the disease tests conducted.
Furthermore, Sindh health department is opening seven new HIV treatment centers in December this year in Sehwan Sharif, Jamshoro, Badin, Nawabshah, Jacobabad, Sanghar and Mirpurkhas. Work on these projects is going on and staff will soon be deputed by end of this year, Mr Memon maintained.
He said that international organizations, including WHO, UNICEF, UNAID and Global Fund had supported Sindh government for HIV patients treatment, kits and other material.
A sudden outbreak of the HIV disease cases emerged through diagnostic tests conducted at Ratodero centre since 25 April this year. The HIV cases are still rising in Ratodero and other parts of Sind as there is no letup in the disease cases yet, putting stigma on the Sindh health department’s efficiency and capability. The intensity of the outbreak has shaken whole world and panicked people of Sindh, particularly in Ratodero region.
Since then, Sindh government has established Rs1billion Endowment Fund for rehabilitation of HIV affected people.
In an interview, a SACP official Safdar Abbasi informed that HIV tests and treatment were costly, but the government was providing the same free of cost. The monthly expenses per HIV patient are about Rs10,000, says Abbasi.
More HIV-hit people are those who inject drugs followed by transgenders, men having sex with men and female sex workers in different cities of Sindh.
People who inject drugs: Karachi 48.7, Mirpurkhas 23.2, Larkana 16.2, Hyderabad 13.2 and Nawabshah 31.2.
Transgenders: Larkana 18.2, Karachi 12.9, Nawabshah 10.7, Hyderabad 8.9 and Sukkur 7.9.
Men having sex with men: Karachi 9.2, Nawabshah 7.2, Hyderabad 5.7, Sukkur 5.1, Larkana 4.9 and Mirpurkhas 4.9.
Female sex workers: Sukkur 8.8, Larkana 4.1, Mirpurkhas 4.1, Nawabshah 3.8 and Hyderabad 2.2.
The government had a strategy to focus on these specific victims under which community based organizations (CBOs) has been formed in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, informed Dr Amjad Ali Abbasi, Incharge, Tertiary Healthcare Center JPMC Karachi while talking to this scribe.
He said that those CBOs, led by leaders from the specific people, search HIV victims and then refer to government HIV centers. Some of these CBOs are Jiya, Pak Society and Naee Zindagi. Jiya works for welfare of people who inject drugs, Pak Society works for sex workers welfare and Naee Zindagai works for sex workers welfare. SACP monitors these CBOs while NACP provides funding to them, says Dr Amjad.
In an interview, Pakistan Medical Association general secretary Dr SM Qaiser Sajjad said that the government should find causes of HIV spread and pay more attention towards prevention as registering cases only was not enough. He said that 650,000 quakes and many fake blood banks were operating across the country and causing HIV disease while barber shops and beauty parlors were also adding to the disease.
Pakistan has 0.165 million HIV people out of which 36,902 are registered, 20,994 million are under treatment and 6,420 are people who inject drugs and are on ARV therapy, according to NACP.