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ISLAMABAD: The number of AIDS patients is increasing in Pakistan as compared to other Asian countries with high-risk populations like transgender, female and male sex workers being regularly tested across the country for HIV, the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (MNHSRC) informed the Senate on Tuesday.

However, the ministry did not provide any data on the exact or tentative number of AIDS patients in the country.

In response to a question posed by Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the Senate sitting regarding rise in the number of AIDS patients in Pakistan as compared to other Asian countries, the reasons behind this rise and steps taken by the federal government to control the increasing number of AIDS patients in Pakistan.

In its written reply, the ministry said, the main reasons for the rise in the AIDS patients are: low-prevention coverage in key populations, low-testing and treatment coverage, reuse of syringes/injections, availability of unscreened blood bags, and needle sharing among IDUs (intra-venous drug users).

According to the MNHSRC, the government has taken following steps to control the increasing number of AIDS patients in Pakistan. It gradually increased coverage of prevention services among key population from current 16 to 26 CBOs to enhance prevention coverage. Low-testing and treatment coverage will be increased by gradual increase in HIV clinics across Pakistan.

Currently, the ministry stated there are 50 HIV clinics in Pakistan and the federal government is in process of establishing three new HIV clinics each in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) this year.

Meanwhile, Mushtaq Ahmed, the JI senator, strongly objected to the absence of health minister in the Senate sitting. He accused the government officials of not taking the Senate proceedings seriously.

Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem responded, “Health minister is not here because there is none. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (Dr Faisal Sultan) heads the Health Ministry. The special assistants cannot be here so queries addressed to them are responded on the floor of the house by the ministers.”

However, the opposition staged a walkout from the house in protest. Deputy Chairman Senate Mirza Muhammad Afridi, who was presiding over the session, directed treasury senators, Anwarul Haq Kakar and Ejaz Chaudhary to bring back the opposition but the latter continued with the walkout.

Quorum was pointed out, which was found to be lacking. The chair suspended the sitting for some time and resumed it after the treasury members joined the house proceedings. The sitting continued in the absence of the treasury senators.

“You go and enjoy sunshine outside,” leader of the house took a jibe at the opposition for staging the walkout.

“They run away from this house. They run away from the public, and they run away from this country,” he added.

“We are here but they are not,” commented Communications Minister Murad Saeed.

“We come prepared to attend Senate sessions. They know that we have all the answers to their questions. So, they do things like running away from the house for face-saving. We are here to answer but the ones who have to question have vanished and they criticise the ministers for not being present in the house,” he deplored.

The minister said the present government constructed road networks of 2,032 kilometres and work on another 2,067 km was under way, adding that the revenue of the National Highways Authority (NHA) increased by 103 billion rupees in the last three years. Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan said Prime Minister Imran Khan would visit Russia and other important countries soon. His visit to China was “very successful”, Khan added.

The house was adjourned till Friday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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