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ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services Faisal Sultan has said that Pakistan was taking all necessary steps to deal with the HIV/AIDS virus and reiterated the country’s pledge to eradicate it by 2030.

While speaking at a conference organised by the Ministry of National Health Services, Common Management Unit (CMU) for AIDS, TB, and Malaria, on Thursday to commemorate the World AIDS Day, he said that as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health, Pakistan in collaboration with the United Nations and other partner organisations, was making serious efforts to bring the ratio of new HIV/AIDS to zero level by 2030.

According to Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Pakistan has at least 200,000 HIV/AIDS cases, of which 32 percent are women and three percent children. The rest are key populations such as transgenders, intravenous drug users, and male and female sex workers. Out of 200,000 AIDS cases, 100,000 are in Punjab, 87,000 in Sindh, and 13,000 in the rest of Pakistan. According to officials, roughly 25,000 new cases have developed in 2020, amid a peak coronavirus pandemic.

The event was also attended by diplomats, representatives of United Nations Country Team (UNCT); UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM); Health, Population, Nutrition and Health Development Partners, Association of People Living with AIDS (APLHIV) and other community-based organizations working on HIV.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony Yuki Takemoto, UNAIDS Country Director to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that HIV/AIDS still threatens the world including Pakistan.

She said that today, the country is off track from delivering on the shared commitment to end AIDS by 2030 not because of a lack of knowledge or tools to beat AIDS, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment.

Sharing his opinion, the UN Resident Coordinator, Pakistan, Julien Harneis, said that for the course corrections, we need to end AIDS as it will also protect Pakistan against future pandemics.

“We need a paradigm shift in health financing and invest in community-led, human rights-based, gender transformative responses, essential workers, equitable access to life-saving medicines, data systems that can detect inequalities, and rights-based approaches that address those inequalities,” he explained.

The World AIDS Day is marked across the world every year on December 2. The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “End inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics”. In Pakistan, this Day is commemorated in collaboration with United Nations agencies, governments and civil society to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS.

The theme reminds entire country’s collective efforts needed by national and provincial partners, support from international partners (UN, GFATM and other development partners), and the critical role of people living with HIV and other community-based organizations in the overall national HIV response.

Speaking in the ceremony, Asghar Satti, National Coordinator of Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS, stressed for HIV testing for ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead a healthy and productive life.

“Both AIDS and Covid-19 can be ended, and future pandemics can be prevented with strong political leadership, action and accountability,” he remarked.

The ceremony was followed by the handicraft stalls displayed by marginalised section of society and work by the joint UN team on aids in support of the HIV response in Pakistan and women’s economic empowerment in which handicrafts by women living with HIV were displayed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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