Pakistan fears AIDS could spread in general population

ISLAMABAD: Hafeez Nauman is leading a life of seclusion and shame having recently been deported from a European country where he contracted AIDS. But he is determined to fight it.
He has been receiving regular treatment from a government facility, but is dismayed about the attitude of his friends and family.

“I have been made to feel outcast by my friends and family members,” Nauman, 43, told Arab News, while expressing his resolve to fight the disease and create awareness of it through social media and other available platforms. Nauman urged all HIV/AIDS patients in the country to get treatment to save their lives despite the social stigma attached to it. “People need to understand that AIDS is a disease like other diseases and one can lead a normal life by getting regular treatment,” he said.

Pakistan is the second largest country in South Asia and stands only a few steps behind India and Nepal in terms of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but it still fails to make the priority list of the government. According to a latest Integrated Biological and Behavioral Surveillance (IBBS) in Pakistan, an estimated 133,529 people across the country have been living with the disease. The survey report says HIV/AIDS prevalence in the general population remains less than 1 percent, but an increase in the number has been noted in all key population areas, with a risk of the disease spreading in the general population through sexual networks.

Dr. Quaid Saeed, senior program coordinator at the National AIDS Control Programme, told Arab News the disease is rapidly spreading while the government’s focus remains limited to those who inject drugs. “Once the disease spreads in the general population like hepatitis, it will be difficult to control,” he said, adding that they need to focus on sexual networks in the country to prevent the endemic. Read more via Arab News