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Health Minister chairs meeting discussing communicable diseases

KARACHI: Karachi Minister for Health and Population Welfare Sindh, Dr Azra Pechuho, chaired a meeting held on communicable diseases and the practices that would require funding. The meeting focused on the transmission of tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, as well as hepatitis B. Also, a part of this meeting was Director General Health Services Sindh, Dr Irshad Memon, Deputy Director-General CDC, Dr Teerat Das, Senior Program Officer Global Fund, ADL Director CDC-II, Dr Saquib Ali Shiekh, Provincial Program Officer, Global Fund, Dr Srichand.

It was decided that every new child being admitted to schools in Sindh would be screened for tuberculosis, and if they tested positive, they would also be screened for HIV/AIDS. This is done in order to curb the flow of communicable diseases across the province.

Sentinel sites that are designed to be able to screen and detect 32 communicable and infectious diseases have been set up throughout the province. These sites are connected to the districts’ command and control centres that report to the DG Health offices of the district.

Considering drugs and medicines being sold with counterfeit prescriptions, pharmacies will now be systematised to report to Sindh Healthcare Commission and district health departments regarding where these prescriptions were obtained from. This measure will enable clinics and medical institutes to keep a record of the infections as well as those prescribing medications for them and will decrease instances of negligence and foul play.

NGO’s that work on communicable infectious diseases will also be required to work closely with the Government of Sindh to ensure and enable accountability and transparency. Due to there being a multitude of stakeholders combined with potentially infected individuals who do not have national identity cards, 4% of those who have been screened for communicable diseases are missing and have not been available for a follow-up screening.

The Minister for Health and Population Welfare Sindh reiterated the importance of tracking all those who are missing after initial screenings as these individuals could be the reason for further drug resistance when it comes to TB and HIV/AIDS.

In order to curb the infections in the province, pregnant women in Rato Dero and Larkana will be screened for HIV/AIDS as well as TB. Since cases of TB are being detected in demographics of children aged 0-4, a practice of reverse contact tracing will be used, which then screens the parents and grandparents of these children in order to pinpoint the location of infection spread. In instances where individuals are unable to pay for their registration for screenings, this amount will be paid for them in order to ensure registration.

The meeting culminated with a focus on counselling mothers, religious clergy and community elders in order to sensitise the community to HIV/AIDS in order to remove the stigma and facilitate treatment.

February 23, 2021

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