LARKANA: The Provincial Health Minister, Dr Azra Pechuho, warned the press to not disclose the identities of any of the affected HIV positive cases or else notices will be issued against them.
This she said while addressing a press conference at Commissioner’s office recently after presiding over a high-level meeting in connection with the outbreak of the dreaded viral HIV disease in Ratodero.
Most of the affected cases were those of children. She said that after so many cases surfaced, a team consisting of experts from the Aga Khan University Hospital, Dow University of Health Sciences, and others was constituted which is still probing to find out the root causes of the spread of HIV and from where it started.
She said that they had established some medical camps to find out how many people had been affected. Due to the rush of the general population, doctors and staff posted at these camps faced a lot of trouble.
She quoted, “We have decided to establish more medical camps at the villages of Saidu Dero, Pir Bux Bhutto, Lashari, Naundero, and Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto, where people from the general public would come and get themselves tested.”
The Minister informed that over 11000 people had so far been screened, out of which a large number had tested HIV positive. She said that it was our responsibility to provide treatment to the affected individuals in a smooth manner.
She proceeded to state that publishing photos, names, and addresses of HIV positive cases was unethical by print and electronic media because the law does not permit for the same. She warned that if such things appeared again, then stern action will be taken and notices will be sent to the relevant organizations. She further said that so far 400 quack-run clinics, laboratories, and illegal blood banks in Larkana, Kambar-Shahdadkot, and other districts have been sealed. Complaints have also been received from Larkana that some elements are selling used syringes after repacking them, she added.
Dr Pechuho further said that she had instructed all government hospitals to make used syringes completely unsuitable for reuse and procured disposable syringes be checked before use. She said that awareness is a must because this viral disease will remain with the patient for the rest of life. She informed about the support of some UN donors, and in the next Sindh budget, some amount will be reserved for HIV/AIDS patients.
She confessed that the condition of the largest teaching hospital of rural Sindh, Chandka Medical College Hospital, is highly worrisome adding that she will recommend the government to allot maximum funds for this hospital so that it could be run on scientific lines. She said all stakeholders must make efforts to eliminate HIV from Larkana because it is a national cause. She asked health officials to procure more HIV testing kits for which, if budget is needed, they should prepare a summary and send it to her which she will proceed to get approval for from the Sindh Chief Minister. Dr Azra urged the authorities to speed up the screening process.
Provincial Program Manager, Sindh AIDS Control Program, Dr Sikandar Memon, said in his briefing that so far 11068 tests have been conducted out of which 445 have been tested HIV positive up. The District Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, WHO representative, District Health Officer, and other health officials were also present on occasion.