Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza on Sunday announced that after seeking the advice of the Sindh health minister, he had called an international rapid response team in the aftermath of the recent HIV/AIDS outbreak.
Pakistan is a considered a low-prevalence country for HIV but this month the news of hundreds of children and adults allegedly infected by an HIV-positive doctor in Sindh’s Larkana district made the headlines. Following this, 56 more suspected cases of HIV were detected in Ratodero.
Addressing a press conference today, Dr Mirza said that a joint team of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) will reach Karachi in the next two to three days. The team of around 10 experts will go to the affected areas and conduct a “proper investigation” along with local doctors, he added.
The SAPM said that he was hopeful that in the coming weeks, they will be able to determine the reasons behind the outbreak.
He told the news conference that when he went and saw the situation first hand, he found that the provincial government was trying to control the situation on the basis of its resources and capacity. However, while announcing the visit of an international rapid response team, he said that he had noted that these efforts were insufficient, particularly with regards to the investigation of the outbreak.
“The recent spread of HIV/AIDS among children was either caused by unsafe injections or by a reason that was not yet known,” Dr Mirza said.
He explained that the spread of the disease among children in such a large number could either be because they had received injections through contaminated syringes or they had received blood transfusions. However, he stressed that so many children could not have received blood transfusions and, at the same time, because the affected children were of a young age, other factors that cause the disease could not be given much significance.
Dr Mirza said that the federal government has been working with the provincial government to cooperate on the matter since the start of the HIV outbreak.
He said that medicines were being provided for all adult and child patients of HIV/AIDS and further new medicines were being ordered as the current supply was found to be insufficient due to an abnormally large number of child affectees.
According to the special assistant, as many as 50,000 screening kits have also been ordered and three treatment centres are being set up in Sindh “so that the work could be done in a more authorised manner”.