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Punjab may face AIDS ‘epidemic’ on failing to procure test kits

Punjab may face AIDS ‘epidemic’ on failing to procure test kits

LAHORE: The largest AIDS control programme in the country seems to be on the verge of collapse after the Punjab government failed to procure 100,000 test kits amid reports emerging that the number of registered AIDS patients across the province has alarmingly risen to 18,556.

Due to the inordinate delay in purchase of the HIV rapid test kits, it is feared that Punjab may reach epidemic proportions of the disease.

The percentage of AIDS cases has increased by 57pc in Pakistan during the last eight years with a death rate of 369pc.

Among the provinces, Punjab is at its top with a major threat of an epidemic with 50pc of the total 36,902 HIV/AIDS cases across the country, followed by Sindh with 43pc, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 5pc and Balochistan 2pc. The estimated number of unregistered HIV cases in Pakistan was 165,000, according to a report of the National AIDS Control Programme, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

Pakistan is also one of the few countries in the World Health Organisation Eastern Mediterranean Region where HIV infections were increasing at an alarming rate.

Report states province tops with most number of HIV/AIDS cases in country

In Punjab, 2,805 registered AIDS patients were reported in DG Khan DHQ Hospital, 2,548 in Mayo Hospital Lahore, 2,363 in Allied Hospital Faisalabad, 2,058 in Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Hospital Gujrat, 1,983 in Jinnah Hospital Lahore, 1,425 Civil Hospital Multan and 1,015 Services Hospital Lahore.

The province also housed 26 of the total 44 HIV treatment centres established across Pakistan. The total number of registered AIDS patients was recently complied by these centres in Punjab.

An official told Dawn that despite the serious situation the Punjab government’s failure to procure 100,000 rapid diagnostic kits for the screening of patients had increased the risks of an epidemic of the disease across the province. He said another major drawback of the Punjab Aids Control Programme (PACP) has been the discrepancy in the reported data of HIV/AIDS patients.

Shockingly, he claimed, that out of the total 18,556 registered patients in Punjab, the programme was providing treatment to 9,400 only. The reason was said to be lack of transparency in the reporting mechanism pertaining to the AIDS patients, he stated.

Similarly, the programme authorities were supposed to prepare and submit a new PC-I to set new targets to curtail the impact of the disease. Upon failure to submitting the new PC-I, the planning and development department extended the previous programme to June 2020.

According to the previous PC-I, the programme was to establish treatment centres in all 36 districts of Punjab by June 2019.

The official further said the programme had also constantly ignored the top five key populations living with HIV/AIDS for their screening and treatment. These included the injection drug users, transgender, male and female sex workers, and truck and bus drivers. It has mainly been focusing on the general population rather than underlining these five core groups that were one of the major reasons behind a surge in the reported cases, he said.

PACP Director Dr Munir Malik claimed that the dubious/double data entry of the AIDS patients in Punjab was caused by a faulty mechanism. “It is unfortunate that many dashboards are working in Punjab for data entry/reporting of the AIDS cases,” he added.

“The programme feels that reporting of such a large number of AIDS cases (18,556) could be the result of duplication of already registered patients during data entry by various dashboards,” Dr Malik claimed.

He said that the national and provincial officials associated with the programme had decided to review the data entry system by introducing biometric scanning and a designated dashboard to avoid duplication.

“The process of procurement of diagnostic kits is under way and I hope it is done till the end of this month,” he added.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020

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