• Sat. May 27th, 2023

HIV screening of deportees, immigrants on the cards, Senate told

ISLAMABAD: All the deportees and immigrants arriving at airports and other points of entry would have to undergo a mandatory screening for the HIV, as they have become a major source for the spread of infectious disease in Pakistan, officials said on Tuesday.

“We have decided to introduce legislation in the National Assembly to make the screening of deportees and immigrants mandatory for HIV at Islamabad International Airport. Similarly, we will also request authorities in provinces to introduce such legislations at provincial levels to screen deportees and immigrants at all the points of entry to contain spread of HIV in the country,” Mustafa Jamal Qazi, National Coordinator for the Common Management Unit (CMU) for HIV, TB and Malaria told Senate Standing Committee on Health.

Presided over by Senator Dr Humayun Mohmand, the senate standing committee was informed by the CMU and NHS officials that the government approved Rs2 billion fund to fight and control HIV/AIDS in the country, while the country had so far received around $1 billion from the Global Fund since 2013 for the cause.

“But the government and the health authorities are not on the driving seat for controlling and preventing HIV and AIDS due to an additional safeguard policy (ASP), which authorizes private organizations like UNDP and Nai Zindahi as the principal recipients of the grant, Mustafa Jamal Qazi added.

“We are trying to convey to the Global Fund that until and unless government is given the leading role in prevention and control of HIV, the infectious disease could not be controlled, which was evident from the fact that HIV was constantly on the rise among Injectable Drug Users (IDUs),” he said while answering the queries of the Senators.

Regarding spread of HIV in Pakistan, Special Secretary Health Mirza Nasir-uddin Mashhood said last year, around 46,000 people were deported from different countries of the world, many of them on health grounds, including HIV. Unfortunately, the countries deporting Pakistani citizens do not inform the authorities about their health status, he added.

“Deported Pakistani citizens and immigrants are carrying the HIV and other infections to Pakistan but we have no way of screening them as mandatory screening is considered as against the human rights. We have planned to legislate in this regard and screen deportees and immigrants to ascertain their health status and if anybody is HIV positive, put him or her on Anti-retroviral drugs,” he maintained.

Briefing about TB in Pakistan, Mustafa Jamal Qazi said Pakistan received over 460 million in grant from the Global Fund but two-third of the grant was in the shape of medicines and diagnostics. Every year, over 611,000 new TB cases are reported in Pakistan, of which 75 percent cases are diagnosed and treated by the national and provincial TB control programs, while remaining patients get the treatment privately, he added.

President, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), Prof Rizwan Taj told the senate standing committee that the issue of 350 scholarships to the meritorious students studying at private medical colleges would be placed on the agenda of the council and efforts would be made to continue it.

The senate standing committee on health also approved Pakistan Pharmacy (Amendment) Bill 2022 moved by the Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan.

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