Pakistan’s AIDS problem by The News Editorial

While the latest UNAID report shows that the global AIDS epidemic is decreasing in parts of Asia and the Pacific, it mentions Pakistan as a country where new infections and mortalities are both on the increase. The report focuses on global inequalities which influence progress in tackling AIDS and especially in expanding access to drugs which can keep the disease in control. The report states that this highlights the need for countries to act urgently to reach the millions who have still not been able to benefit from the latest developments.

The report notes an especially sharp increase in HIV/AIDS in Pakistan and the Philippines. It also highlights the difficulty for most countries in reaching targets and says that in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines late diagnosis and poor adherence to treatment are major factors in pushing forward transmissions and AIDS-related deaths. About half of the key populations living with HIV are not aware of their status and there is a need to improve the rate of diagnosis. The report also notes that the goal of reducing AIDS-related death to fewer than 500,000 will not be met this year, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic drawing attention away from other diseases.

HIV infections according to the report are rising more sharply among young people aged 15 to 25 years. This is a major concern for Pakistan, with the majority of its population falling in this category or very close to it. UNAIDS states that ending punitive laws and policies and tackling rising stigma can help make progress in dealing with AIDS. The countries which offer needles/syringe programmes and moderate coverage of narcotics substitution therapy have fared well in reducing AIDS. These are all factors Pakistan needs to consider. Discriminatory laws and the stigma attached to AIDS are still high in the country today. This is also true of Afghanistan. These factors could help explain why the rate continues to rise in these nations while others including Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand have been able to control it. We must reconsider policies and also put in place large-scale awareness campaigns to give people accurate knowledge about the AIDS issue and the fact that the disease can be successfully treated if it is diagnosed early and proper therapies begun. So far, we have not been able to do this. As a result, people who suspect they may be living with HIV do not seek treatment while the lack of diagnostic facilities also hinders them. Overcoming these challenges is vital to our future and to our success in pushing down the HIV/AIDS rates in our country.

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