Expressing her annoyance at the poor infection prevention and control (IPC) practices and rampant quackery in the Larkana division, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho on Saturday said 193 new cases of HIV had so far been reported from Larkana, Shikarpur and adjoining districts this year.
She said the situation was a serious cause of concern for the provincial government that had been spending heavily on the prevention of HIV in the province.
She explained that Of the 193 new cases, 108 were detected in Larkana, 44 in Shikarpur and the remaining in their adjacent districts.
She was presiding over a meeting of a joint mission on the HIV situation attended by UNAIDS Country Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan Yuki Takemoto, Sindh Health Secretary Dr Kazim Jatoi, UNAIDS’s Dr Rajwal Khan, Sindh Health Director General Dr Juman Bahoto, Deputy Director General Communicable Disease Control Dr Ershad Kazmi, Dr Ayaz Soomro from Unicef, Larkana commissioner and other officials.
The joint mission visited health facilities in Larkana, including Shaikh Zayed Women Hospital, Chandka Medical College Hospital and Taluka Headquarters Hospital Ratodero to assess the HIV situation in the area and quality of services being provided to people living with HIV in Ratodero and adjoining areas, and to ensure medical and psychological support to the children infected with HIV and their families.
During the visit to health facilities in Larkana and Ratodero, the provincial health minister got extremely upset regarding the IPC practices, saying she did not smell any disinfectant at any health facility, which meant that disinfectants were either not being procured or not being used at the healthcare facilities.
“Despite investments in capacity building of doctors, paramedics and janitorial staff, it is pathetic to see poor IPC practices. An IPC committee was established and notified but seems it’s still non-functional,” Dr Azra observed.
Directing the Health Services DG to immediately approach the Sindh Healthcare Commission for action against quacks in the Larkana division as well as other districts of Sindh, she said it appeared that quacks were still playing with the lives of people in the province.
She maintained that the quality of healthcare services had been compromised due to burden on the tertiary-care hospitals.
“Psychiatric care needs to be expanded to Ratodero from Larkana on a weekly basis to provide psychosocial support to families affected by HIV,” she said as she asked Unicef to engage NGOs for profiling of each child and household affected by HIV.
She stressed the need for assessing impact of HIV on the affected children’s schooling, social life and relationships with other children. It should be ensured that children with HIV are not ostracised, she said.
The UNAIDS country director for Pakistan and Afghanistan praised the political will of the provincial government to deal with HIV, saying that timely and decisive actions would improve the situation.
She also informed that UNAIDS with the help of Unicef and WHO was planning to conduct programmatic review of the HIV response in Larkana.
Communicable Disease Control Deputy Director General Dr Ershad Kazmi presented the data of the HIV situation in the province, especially those living with HIV in Larkana, and said that new cases were emerging due to ongoing screening.
“In addition to taking measures to prevent the spread of HIV in the province, we are screening people to find out those who have already contracted the HIV infection to ensure treatment of these people,” Dr Kazmi said.