Monday, December 2, 2013

Pakistan sees eight-fold increase in HIV cases in 11 years

Pakistan has seen an eight-fold increase in HIV cases between 2001 and 2012, said a UN report on the eve of the World AIDS Day. The report, ‘HIV in Asia and the Pacific: Getting to Zero,” released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, says that emerging epidemics are becoming evident in 12 countries in Asia and the Pacific region, where an estimated 4.9 million were living with HIV in 2012. The 12 countries account for more than 90 per cent of people living with HIV and of new HIV infections in the region. The countries are Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. According to the report, Pakistan introduced the “third gender” option for identity documents and Nepal recognised “third gender” in the national census. The report points out that inadequate focus on key populations at higher risk of HIV infection and geographical areas with higher HIV burden mean that most countries in the region are not progressing fast enough to reach global targets on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. While significant progress has been seen in some countries — with some reducing new HIV infections by over 50pc since 2001 — impact appears to be slowing with overall number of new HIV infections across the region remaining largely unchanged in the past five years. Total estimated HIV spending in the region in 2012 was $2.2 billion, up 5pc from 2011. Yet, the AIDS response in the region remains under-funded. To achieve the 2015 annual investment target in low- and middle-income countries in Asia and the Pacific, UNAIDS estimates that about $5.4bn must be mobilised. According to the report, new HIV infections in the region remain concentrated among key populations: people who buy and sell sex, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and transgender people. The fastest-growing epidemics in the region are among men who have sex with men. These epidemics are typically concentrated in major cities. The report calls for a rapid increase of voluntary confidential community-based HIV testing and counselling for populations at higher risk in the region. In a message on the AIDS Day, President Mamnoon Hussain said that as HIV is an issue of global concern it is important that the international community focuses on AIDS prevention and cure in the less developed countries and thereby help make Pakistan and the whole world HIV and AIDS free. He said that promulgation of ‘Blood Safety Ordinance’ both at federal and provincial levels and supply of diagnostic kits and laboratory consumables and equipment to all provincial, AJK, Fata and federal centres are critical advances in the fight against the disease.

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