The rise of HIV-positive cases in Larkana began at the end of April but it wasn’t enough to prompt action from the government.
On Tuesday, 20 days after the beginning of what became a storm of HIV positive cases, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho visited Larkana. But her long-delayed visit wasn’t her own brainchild — she was sent by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP chairperson and her nephew.
Pechuho is Bilawal’s paternal aunt and while Bilawal has praised her for her dedication in the past, he reportedly lost his cool when the number of HIV-positive cases started to increase and she didn’t appear.
The provincial health minister reached Ratodero, a sub-division of Larkana district, to inspect the HIV screening camps. At a press conference at the Commissioner’s Office in Larkana, she said it wouldn’t have made much of a difference is she had visited earlier.
“It’s not like I would have run the camps,” she justified. “I would have just done a press conference and gone.” She assured the media that the government will not let the person responsible for the spread of disease go. After her press conference, she left, just as she said she would.
HIV-positive cases rise to 445
Over 445 people have been declared HIV positive in Larkana, of which 356 are children, the Sindh Aids Control Programme revealed on Tuesday.
Analyst Adnan Adil believes that the alarming figures are indicative of the poor quality of healthcare provided in Sindh. According to him, only 22% of Sindh’s population has access to hospitals. The rest go to ‘private doctors’, most of whom turn out to be quacks.
He said AIDS or HIV can be spread through unsafe blood transfusions or lack of care when drawing blood.
A blood screening camp was set up by the Sindh Aids Control Programme and provincial health department at the Ratodero Hospital on May 2. Officials have launched a crackdown against unregistered laboratories and fake doctors that have aided the spread of the HIV/AIDS.
According to the WHO, approximately 20,000 new HIV infections are reported in Pakistan annually, the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region.