AIDS: A Hidden Epidemic in Pakistan

Friday, 11 July 2008: 8:50 AM
Nasreen S. Lalani, MScN, RN , Nursing Services, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

Learning Objective 1: to highlight the underlying individual, societal and structural factors or determinants contributing towards the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Pakistan

Learning Objective 2: discuss the effects of HIV/AIDS on the population and development of the country with reference to the available statistics

Approximately 70,000 to 80,000 persons are infected with Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) virus in Pakistan from the total of 40 million cases of HIV around the world (Khawar, 2002). A most recent report by the National AIDS control program- Pakistan (2004), a total number of 1,972 HIV and 231 acquired immuno deficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases had been reported to the government so far. Although, these numbers are low in comparison to other countries in the region, a general upward trend is noticed both for HIV and the number of AIDS cases in all four provinces of Pakistan. Moreover, these estimates are just the reported cases of HIV found in the country; the exact figures are not known due to the lack of proper surveillance system and lack of large scale epidemiological studies. According to Javed cited in Yousufzai (2004), 14,000 new cases are reported every day, and 95 per cent of these were in developing countries. HIV/AIDS poses an unprecedented threat to global health and development. The epidemic is destroying peoples' lives, eroding socio-economic progress, impairing productivity and straining social cohesion.

As Pakistan is a developing country, HIV/AIDS has major impacts over the socio-economic and other developments of the country. Most of the literature available on AIDS discusses about the disease, its signs and symptoms, treatments and severity of the disease. However, there is a greater need to highlight the issues and factors contributing to this vulnerable and fatal disease in the country. The paper will aim to explore and analyze those factors/determinants in detail with reference to the available statistics and recommends possible strategies in order to fight against this serious epidemic.