Islamabad, May 26, 2019 (PPI-OT): Health Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza addressing a Press Conference on HIV outbreak in Rattodero Tehsil of Sindh shared that the Federal Government came all out in support of Sindh health department as soon as details of spike in HIV cases in Rattodero surfaced. I was in the affected area myself for stock taking and we are providing every support including testing kits medicines. Reviewing the situation first hand I decided we must have a team of top international experts to ascertain the cause, advise on mitigation measures and ways and means of avoiding future recurrence. Regional Director of WHO was kind to honor our request and as I speak to you a team of top international experts is being dispatched to Pakistan.
During my visit to the affected area I told Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuhuo that when it comes to health of our people we have to work as one team. We owe it to our people. Federal Government will stand in support of provincial health departments to meet any challenge anywhere in the country. This is my message as Health Minister and someone who has dedicated his life working for health causes. I would like to assure the people that the Federal Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan is on top of the situation in Rattodero and we will not relent till we get to the bottom of this outbreak, provide treatment to each affectee and help the Sindh health department put in place a system to avoid such unfortunate occurrences in the future.
According to details on 25th April 2019 an HIV Outbreak was reported, by the local media, in Ratodero Taluka, district Larkana. Fifteen children with complaints of persistent weight loss and fever, had been tested positive for HIV by a local Physician in Ratodero. Blood samples of these 15 children were later sent to a referral laboratory of the Sindh AIDS Control Programme and as per the report shared by Sindh AIDS Control Program 03 of 15 cases were confirmed by Rapid Diagnostic Test on the first day. Alerted by this increased number of HIV cases from general population the Federal Ministry established a communication with Health department Sindh.
On the direction of Health Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza the National AIDS Control Program immediately responded to a request made by Sindh AIDS Control Program to send a team to join the response and help in providing HIV screening kits. The national program immediately sent 3000 HIV test kits to Ratodero. During the initial search and investigation of the reason of increased No of HIV cases the National AIDS Program technical team along with other UN agencies and Aga Khan Hospital experts were present in Larkana.
The situation of HIV positives identified in these screening camps as of 25th May 2019 is as follows: Total Screened Total positive for HIV Case detection Rate 21375 681 3.2% Median Age 4.5 years Male to Female Ratio 50% Most affected age group 2-5 years The most striking feature of this outbreak is the fact that children between the ages of 2-5 years are most infected followed by age group 6-15 years . The team of expert while in field started HIV screening on one hand along with SACP and also held counselling sessions with HIV affected communities to ascertain the immediate cause of spread of HIV and to alley the fear and panic spread in the communities.
With time large number of people turned to screening camps to get themselves and their children tested for HIV. The peculiar feature of this outbreak was the identification of very high number of children affected by this disease. An outbreak investigation was launched by the federal team of epidemiologists. The Federal Ministry on advice if Health Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza started communication with various UN agencies for a proper follow up and support to this out break and accordingly a high-level meeting was convened here in Islamabad with all UN agencies, Civil Society Organizations and Sindh AIDS Control program to deliberate upon the outbreak situation in Ratodero and coordinate a joint response.
National AIDS Control Program supported the Provincial program in the areas of blood screening and HIV treatment by providing following support:
1. NACP is also providing assistance and support in specialized HIV investigations like CD4 (Lymphocyte) count and viral load testing by providing additional supplies and CD4 machines to Larkana
2. NACP has supported the establishment of a Paediatric ART centre at Larkana by proving all reporting tools and HR (Data entry operator) in addition to the existing HIV treatment centre (adult) at Chandka Medical College Hospital.
3. 03 more treatment centre would be established in coming days in Mirpur Khas, Nawab Shah and Hyderabad
4. NACP technical team was sent to Larkana to coordinate with SACP in outbreak response investigation and management
5. NACP is mobilizing UN Partners (WHO, UINCEF and UNAIDS) and Global Fund to effectively address and halt the outbreak. On 23rd May, Health Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza visited Rattodero He had an initial briefing from Sindh Health authorities where the Provincial Health Minister, Divisional/ District authorities gave a detail brief about the HIV out break and response. ? Dr. Zafar Mirza assured the Sindh Government for Federal Ministry support in provision of HIV test Kits, diagnostics, living support and by establishing three more treatment centres at Hyderabad, Jamshoro and Mirpur Khas Health Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza visited along with Provincial Minister of health the Regional Blood Centre, which is the main laboratory for supplying safe blood to the hospital of the region.
Health Minister visited the Adult ART centre Larkana, where the HIV patients are being provided diagnostic and treatment facilities for the last so many years with the support of National AIDS Control Program. He also visited the paediatric ART centre Chandka Medical College newly established soon after this out break, with the support of NACP and other partners. Unfortunately the High numbers of Children between the ages of 2-5 years were reported in this outbreak.
Dr. Zafar Mirza also visited the HIV Screening camps in Ratodero along with experts team, where I remain for a time to see the effected children and their families were screened at various sites. I very clearly advised my team to wholeheartedly support these affected people and also assured complete support to Dr Azra Pehchuhu, the Sindh Health Minister for a comprehensive response to HIV outbreak in Sindh. After reviewing the situation Health Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza contacted the WHO Headquarters and the EMRO at Egypt and asked their technical and professional support to investigate Larkana HIV outbreak. Based on this request a WHO high level mission is coming to the affected area.
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