HIV spreading like wildfire in Pakistan

HIV is spreading like wildfire in Pakistan, while according to media reports, the Islamic republic has an estimated 210,000 people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) of which 43 percent or 90,000 are in Sindh province. Most alarming fact is – a large portion of the HIV positive patients in Pakistan are children under the age of 10.

In Pakistan, HIV numbers have long been trending in the wrong direction. The 2021 data indicate that only 21 percent of those infected with HIV in Pakistan are aware of their status.

According to UNAIDS, there are an estimated 210,000 HIV-positive people in Pakistan, and only 12 percent of them receive treatment. As a result, there has been a 385 percent increase in HIV-related deaths in Pakistan since 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa, in contrast, has had a 45 percent decline over that same period. Pakistan has one of the fastest-rising rates of infection in Asia and the Pacific.

One of the key reasons behind resurgence of HIV in Pakistan even as it has declined elsewhere in the world is, Pakistan government’s lack of interest in the health sector. According to the World Bank, just over 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product goes toward health, one of the lowest such allocations in the world; its neighbor Afghanistan devotes nearly 10 percent.

Per person, less than US$45 is spent on health care annually in Pakistan, which relies heavily on foreign aid; in the United States, which has the highest per capita health care expenditures in the world, the amount is around US$10,600. Life expectancy for the average Pakistani is 67 years, more than a decade shorter than it is for Americans.

Pakistan, one of two countries that has not eradicated polio, also currently bears some of the heaviest burden from tuberculosis, at least in part because being HIV-positive increases the risk, by roughly 20-fold, of developing the disease.

Yet many poorer countries manage to have better health outcomes than Pakistan by focusing on primary care and strengthening their public-health capacities. Allocating resources strategically and prioritizing hard-to-reach areas and marginalized groups can help ensure that access to services is not determined by geography or income. Active disease surveillance and prevention can blunt outbreaks, or at least stop health systems from becoming apathetic and dysfunctional when crises surface.

According to health experts, Pakistan may soon witness the massive rise in the number of HIV-positives, while it may ultimately take the shape of a pandemic – much worse than COVID.

Pakistanis carrying HIV to Middle Eastern countries

According to December 2017 statistics, more than 8.74 million Pakistani nationals were working in various countries in the Middle East while the number of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia alone was 2.60 million. The number of Pakistanis in the Middle Eastern nations now would be more than 10 million. Hundreds and thousands of Pakistani females are working as domestic help in the Middle Eastern nations, where almost four percent of these workers are HIV-Positive. As these female workers may indulge into sexual activities in those countries, where in most cases, condoms are not used, these Pakistani female workers can play the role of HIV spreader in the societies, which can ultimately become a serious health hazard to the respective nations.

It may be mentioned here that, although the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have mandatory provision for the foreign workers to undergo proper diagnosis and obtain health certificates, in the case of Pakistan, almost 90 percent of these workers succeed in managing health clearance certificates by bribing authorities in the diagnostic centers.

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