Dr. Maria maintained that children as young as two and seven months old had been tested HIV positive in Ratodero area of Larkana, and it would change the course of their future lives. They need to take antiretroviral therapy (ART) for life and in addition to psychosocial support, she added.
She noted that the first report of new HIV infections among children came from the local media, hence there is a need to strengthen current HIV reporting and monitoring system. The Sindh Government quickly responded and is carrying out voluntary HIV testing in medical camps. Those tested HIV positives are immediately being linked to treatment.
As far as treatment is concerned, UNAIDS Country Director to Pakistan and Afghanistan said that the Global Fund is currently providing 100% of the ART in the country, free of charge. However, this will end in December 2020 and it would be strategic for the federal and provincial governments to start planning now, to sustain it beyond 2020.
“UN is ready to bring in experts from abroad and introduce best practices which have resulted in preventing such outbreaks in other high risk countries but local authorities would have to prepare mid-term and long term strategies to prevent such outbreaks in future and deal with the existing burden of people with HIV/Aids in the country”, she added.
According to UNAIDS, HIV infection had increased by 57% in Pakistan from 2010 to 2018. While other countries like India and Cambodia had successfully reduced its new HIV infections because of effective prevention program, countries like Pakistan and Philippines continue to show an upward trend.
The UNAIDS official also held talks with Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho and other government officials on the recent HIV outbreak in Larkana and assured the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS’ (UNAIDS) collective support in carrying out a scientific investigation of the outbreak, linking those tested HIV positive to treatment, implementing of education, prevention program as well as reporting and monitoring to prevent such outbreaks in the country in the future.