According to UNAIDS, Pakistan has the fastest rates of HIV spread in the Asia Pacific Region with 20,000 new infections reported in 2017. In recent years, seen the virus rapidly resurfacing among sex workers and intravenous drug users. According to NACP, Pakistan already has 165,000 people living with HIV, but only around 25,000 are registered with national and provincial HIV programs.
The Pakistan government seeks help internationally after more than 700 people in the southern town of Ratodero, mostly children, tested positive for HIV. Reused syringes, mostly by the unqualified practitioners, might have been the cause of the outbreak.
“As part of key tasks, a WHO-led team will determine the factors behind the outbreak and suggest controlling measures, provide technical expertise in the areas of HIV testing, paediatric HIV treatment and family counselling,” Pakistan’s state minister for health, Zafar Mirza, told SciDev.Net.
The team who reached Ratodero ensured enough supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antiretroviral medicines for adults and children, also the single-use needles and syringes as initial investigations pointed to the use of repackaged syringes.
“Initial official investigations conducted by our organisation in collaboration with provincial and federal health departments point towards the reuse of infected syringes in the area and also unscreened blood transfusions,” said Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai, National AIDS Control Programme.
Five hundred and ninety-five of them are children, 70 percent of whom are aged between two and five years old, according to National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) officials.
Majority of the affected ones are the children, so then it has led to be the world’s fastest HIV outbreak.
Oliver Morgan, director of health emergency information and risk assessment in the Health Emergencies Programme of WHO, is leading the 12-member international team of health experts from the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to investigate the outbreak.
The authorized will seek the said origin of the outbreak and identify the source of the infection before it spreads further. They will also provide pediatric HIV treatment and family counselling. Moreover, unqualified practitioners are behind the use of syringes.
NACP programme manager Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai told SciDev.Net: “Initial official investigations conducted by our organisation in collaboration with provincial and federal health departments point towards the reuse of infected syringes in the area and also unscreened blood transfusions. [Other reasons] could be poor infection prevention and unprotected sex.”