HIV/AIDS is still one of the biggest social taboos in Pakistan. According to a report published recently, at least 15 blood donors screened in Badin turned out to be HIV-positive. It is pertinent to mention that blood samples were sent to Karachi and tested in one of the reliable laboratories. The news sent waves of shock and fear among the residents of Badin. People in Badin still do not know about AIDS and how it can be prevented; all that they know is that it is a disease that is to be feared. For the consumption of readers, I want to relate a few things about Badin. Badin, being one of the largest districts of Sindh, is blessed with natural resources like oil and gas reserves while also housing a number of sugar mills. Of the total oil and gas production, 67 percent of crude oil and 44 percent of natural gas is drilled from Badin. In spite of such a significant contribution to the national exchequer, the district has no tertiary care hospital.
It is one of the richest districts in terms of natural resources and one of the poorest in terms of human development. Because of a lack of human development, awareness on AIDS is not created among the people of this area with the consequence that the disease is still seen as a stigma. Considering AIDS a social taboo, social stigma and an object of fear and suffering are proving more dangerous than the disease itself. Our country has entered into the second phase of concentrated epidemic from the first phase of low prevalence. The second phase of concentrated epidemic means that the proportion of infected people in any high-risk group has risen more than five percent. Currently more than 100,000 known cases of HIV/AIDS are present in Pakistan, while the unknown cases of HIV/AIDS might run in millions because the detection of HIV infection is particularly challenging when very low levels of virus are present in the blood, for example during ‘window period’. The window period is the time between being infected with HIV and the ability of an HIV test to detect HIV in an infected person. Through education, we can prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading further. Certain behavioural changes like use of condoms with non-regular sexual partner; use of STI(sexually transmitted infection) treatment services when symptoms are present and knowledge of the link between STIs and HIV; use of sterile syringes for all injections; reduction in the number of injections received; voluntary blood donation (particularly among the age group 18 to 30); use of blood for transfusion only if it has been screened for HIV; and display of tolerant and caring behaviors towards people living with HIV/ AIDS and members of vulnerable populations. Our motto should be: “Kill the all social taboos before the HIV/AIDS kills you, your partner and your country”. Again one thing which is exclusively for MSM (men who have sex with men) group; they are still not safe while using condoms. Anal sex is considered to be very risky behavior. A person who inserts his penis into an infected partner is at risk because STIs can enter through the urethra or through small cuts, abrasions, or open sores on the penis. Also, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be risky.
MSM group has also been put into deferral system of FDA in United States. FDA’s MSM policy reduces the likelihood that a person would unknowingly donate blood during the “window period” of infection. This is important because the rate of new infections in MSM is higher than in the general population. In Pakistan major risk groups for HIV/AIDS in urban areas in big cities are injecting drug users (IDUs) and in rural areas in small cities are MSM. There are tough challenges ahead for us, how to cope with all of this mess. These are our loved ones, our countrymen and this is our country we have to make it beautiful, strong, healthy and free from diseases and all social taboos. My beloved people of Badin no need to fear, we all Pakistanis are with you all in this difficult time.