The human immunodeficiency (HIV) is a virus which can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDs), which is the last stage of HIV infection. It attacks and weakens the body’s immune system; specially T cells and reduces its ability to fight infection and disease. It causes to make lazy the people whom cannot work easily. Immune system is a natural defense system of our body. This virus destroys white blood cells in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and makes copies of it inside cells. T-helper cells are also referred to as CD4 cells.
If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years of the immune system to be so severely damaged that it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the rate at which HIV progresses varies depending on age, general health and background.
Annually 6 thousand 2 hundred people lost their lives due to Aids in Pakistan. 2 hundred and 31 people have been died in Balochistan due to such a chronic disease. 1 thousand 3 hundred and 34 patients are registered with Provincial aids control program in Balochistan. More 3 thousand people are affected by AIDs in Balochistan. Recently It has been increased from 3 thousand 5 hundred to 5 Thousand patients. Just 13 thousand 34 male, female and children patients are registered with provincial Aids control program.
Provincial AIDs control has conducted screening program in 4 Central Prisons of Balochistan along with Gadani and Turbat. They have done screening of 4 thousand 44 prisoners, 71 of them affected HIV AIDs which is a tragedy. There are patients of AIDs in Killa Saif Ullah, Zhob, Sherani, Loralai, Lasbela, Nushki and Killa Abd Ullah.
There is no cure or vaccine for the virus; prevention is only key strategy to control the spread of this disease, primarily trough safe sex and needle exchange programs. However, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease. Raising awareness about AIDs is a big issue in Pakistan, especially In Balochistan it is hard work, because it is still considered as one of the biggest social taboos in Pakistan.
HIV/AIDs is still a big stigma here in Pakistan and there are 2 factors in its behind. 1st one is our society’s approach. As a society we we are still in a state of denial about the huge prostitution industry in the country. These issues are not discussed openly and we blame it on a conservative mindset, choosing to label such issues vulgar. Until we faced with harsh consequences, we live our little bubble of denial.
2nd factor is also linked to 1st one. Considering our society’s approach and reactions, our inept and inefficient leadership num over legislation against discrimination against people suffering from HIV/AIDs.
Despite Pakistan is a signatory of the declaration of Commitments on HIV/AODs, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) targets and the political declaration of HIV/AIDs which requires to develop national HIV plans including laws and regulations to eliminate discrimination/ and guarantee human rights for people living with HIV; and to develop strategies to combat the stigma and social exclusion connected to these epidemics.
In Pakistan, social taboos, stigmas and social fears prove to be more dangerous than the disease itself. Unfortunately, our country has moved from the 1st phase of low prevalence to the 2nd phase of concentrated epidemics.
The 2nd phase of concentrated epidemics is when the proportion of infected people in any high-risk group rises more than 5%. Thanks to the state of denial our society, there are currently more than 1 lac cases of HIV/AIDs in Pakistan. Data from various researchers suggested that the trend of concentrated HIV epidemics among key affected populations in Pakistan continues to be driven by people who inject drugs (PWID) exhibiting the highest HIV prevalence at 37.2%. This is followed by transgender and male sex workers (MSWs) at 5.2% and 1.6%respectively.
Among the key affected populations identified female sex workers (FSWs) exhibits lowest prevalence at 0.6% while the geographic trend of the epidemic shows its beginning in major urban cities and provincial capitals then expending overtime to smaller cities and towns.
Moreover, due to the fear attached to such a subject, we may not even be aware of unreported cases of HIV/AIDs in Pakistan. For all we know, this figure might be in millions. In addition, detection of the infection is particularly challenging when very low levels of virus are present in the blood. This is known as the window period- the time between being infected with HIV and the ability of test to detect the infection.
Considering Pakistan is already I the 2nd phase of the epidemic and so many cases are likely to unreported, it is the need of hour to raise awareness. Our celebrities, legislatures and health professionals can play a vital role in spreading awareness before HIV/AIDs kill our country.
It needs to educate ourselves at first. We have to understand what we can do to protect our people from HIV/AIDs. This can be done by making sure that not to use any injected drugs, also make sure sterilization of dental equipments before dental treatment. It is our duty to make sure fresh blades using in barber shops while we go for a shave. It also needs not to make any tattoos on our body on roads.
Some of the social organization like Social Sangat and Youth RISE International are working together for raising awareness and doing advocacy for making meaningful youth participation in the inclusion of young key populations in decision making under ‘count me in’ campaign for YKPs and HIV/AIDS. But it needs further support of community and government to protect young people from drugs, HIV/AIDs and other harmful practices.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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