Despite the National AIDS Control Programme’s (NACP’s) efforts for implementation of evidence-based preventive interventions among key population groups, new HIV infections have increased in recent years. Pakistan now faces a concentrated epidemic of HIV/AIDS because infections among Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) and other high-risk groups such as Men Having Sex with Men (MSM), Female Sex Workers (FSWs) and Hijra Sex Workers (HSWs) have reached the threshold level. These communities, upon interaction with the bridging population, can spread HIV/AIDS rapidly to the rest of the population.
Apprehensions to this effect were shared with participants of an ‘Interactive Round Table Dialogue with Media Personnel,’ here on Tuesday. The session was attended by the programme manager of NACP Dr. Baseer Khan Achakzai, and representatives of WHO and other partner UN agencies.
The session primarily focused on some of the great work that NACP is carrying out to engage high-risk communities through their community-based organizations (CBOs). “In this instance, a historic high was achieved when 17 CBOs were taken on-board by the programme. These efforts will enable to reach people who are part of the bridging population between the general population and the affected communities,” Dr. Baseer Achakzai stated. It is imperative that these people be reached as the consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic. There is still a need for behavioural, biological and case-based surveillance to prevent increase of HIV among vulnerable groups. The participants were apprised of the advancements made by NACP towards reducing the risk of HIV and AIDS. Some noteworthy achievements include the availability of free of cost testing services for the communities, better HIV/AIDS management response, formulation of strategic plans for testing of people for HIV/AIDS, and provision and adherence of treatment services to combat the pandemic. A similar outstanding effort includes the increase of registered people with NACP from 4,500 in 2013 to 25,220 in 2018.
NACP is making efforts to achieve universal access to Antiretroviral Therapy (ARVs) and is working to ensure that anyone who is at risk of HIV infection is prevented through awareness and those who are already affected have access to health centres and treatment services without discrimination and stigma.