Relief for high-risk HIV groups being relaunched this month

Published: January 16, 2012

KARACHI, Jan 15: The service delivery packages (SDPs) for HIV high risk groups, including female and male sex workers, will be relaunched and executed by health workers and non-governmental organisations this month, said a senior official of the provincial Aids control programme on Sunday.

The SDPs were closed in June 2010 when international donors and the federal government withdrew financial supports, but the Sindh Aids Control Programme (SACP) through the funding of the provincial government continued providing free diagnostic and treatment facilities, said a source in the programme.

According to an SACP surveillance report, Sindh had a cumulative figure of registered HIV positive cases at 582 by the end of 2003, which increased to 4,130 till Sept 2011. There were 40 children, 3,885 males and 205 females tested positive for HIV.

Furthermore, the number of confirmed Aids cases registered with the SACP increased from 85 (2003) to 195 (Sept 2011). The people living with Aids included two children, 164 males and 29 females.

According to the surveillance report, so far deaths of 140 people, including 10 women and 122 men and eight children living with Aids, have been recorded since Jan 2004.

The SACP has suffered because of interruptions in delivery of services for the prevention of spread of HIV infections and harm-reduction activities among the high-risk groups.

NGOs working as partners in various Aids initiatives, including detoxification for injecting drug users (IDUs), rehabilitation of IDUs, peer counselling for IDUs, handling of people living with HIV, delivery of services to male and female sex workers and jail inmates in regard to HIV infection and treatment and management of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), had to stop functioning, it was further said.

An expert in the HIV field said that it was a fact that Aids (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) was a socio-developmental problem and one of the most formidable challenges of our time.

`In Sindh, the magnitude of the problem is bigger than in other provinces andwe are in concentrated phase of epidemic among IDUs and male sex workers, he added.

The deputy programme manager in the SACP, Dr Syed Qamar Abbas, said that Sindh was a leading public health programme in the country. Despite the fact that the World Bank financing was stopped on Dec 31, 2009, all services were on board with the financial assistance of the government of Sindh, he said.

Under the umbrella of the provincial implementation unit (PIU) of the Sindh Aids Control Programme, all diagnostic and treatment services were being provided free through 46 sexually transmitted infections clinics, 21 voluntary counselling and testing centres, three prevention of parent to child transmission centres and five HIV/Aids treatment centres, he said.

These facilities are situated at district headquarters and teaching hospitals.

Services are also provided to some of the cities of Balochistan, which have geographical proximity and availability of transport facilities to access Karachi, he added. He said the funding situation started improving in January 2010. The government of Sindh provided Rs30 million during 2009-2010 and Rs42.462 million during 2010-2011. Hence, the provision of salaries and other services on board, including the referral lab continued, he said, adding that under the ADP (Annual development Plan) 2011-12, Rs80 million was allocated for the SACP.

`Now the government of Sindh has approved the PC-1 of the project for the next three years, le till June 2014.

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