HIV cases in Sindh – Newspaper

THE 2019 Ratodero HIV outbreak had brought to the fore the worst aspects of Pakistan’s ailing healthcare system. Criminal negligence of this sector had led to the rampant reuse of syringes by one ‘paediatrician’, which ended up infecting hundreds of children with the potentially deadly virus. Till October 2019, around 1,100 residents of Ratodero taluka in Larkana district had tested positive for HIV out of whom at least 900 were children. Almost two years later, by June 2021, the number of infected patients swelled to 1,500, according to the Sindh health department’s figures. But there are fears that the tragedy is far from over. Health experts have raised the alarm over reports of an increasing number of HIV cases reported not only from the ‘HIV-positive taluka’ as Ratodero has now come to be known, but also the adjoining localities. According to local and foreign experts, at least 52 HIV-infected children have died in the last two years, while new cases are still being reported in both adults and children. All this is happening while quackery and the damaging practice of reusing syringes, which led to the initial outbreak, continue unabated in the area. The transmission of the HIV virus is now being witnessed in adjoining areas including Sijawal Junejo taluka in Larkana district and Garhi Yasin taluka in the neighbouring district of Shikarpur. However, most of the new patients, including children, belong to Garhi Khairo taluka in Jacobabad district, which reportedly has only two qualified doctors. It is frightening to think of what damage is being inflicted on the health of patients by the large number of quacks that must exist in the area.

Considering its commendable, proactive response to the Covid-19 threat, the PPP-led provincial government’s continued apathy towards this situation in its stronghold defies logic and gives credence to allegations of misgovernance by its political opponents as well as ordinary citizens. The situation must be rectified. The authorities must crack down on quacks and end medical malpractice.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2021

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