• Mon. May 29th, 2023

IHRA to lead HIV prevention measures in Islamabad: officials

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority (IHRA) would be the responsible authority for the prevention, control, care, support, treatment, and enforcement of HIV and AIDS-related matters in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) as per a bill proposed by the UN agencies, officials said on Wednesday.

“UN agencies in Pakistan, including the UNDP, UNAIDS and UNFPA have come up with a draft law for the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS in the capital. As per this draft, an HIV and AIDS Policy Board is to be established by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C) to evaluate and oversee the progress of the Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority by giving policy guidelines in the HIV and AIDS-related matters,” an official of the NHS quoting a draft law proposed by the UNAIDS, UNDP and UNFPA in Islamabad said. The official maintained that consultation on the proposed draft bill was underway at the ministry and once it is vetted by the experts, it would be sent to the concerned standing committees of the National Assembly and Senate on health.

Regarding the members of the HIV and AIDS Policy Board, the official said it has been proposed that the members of board would be nominated from both, the public and private sectors as well as the UN agencies.

The official said that as per the proposed draft, HIV and AIDS prevention, testing, treatment and care services would made available and accessible to the people living with HIV and key populations, including HIV Confidential and Volunteer Testing and Counselling, Anti-Retroviral Therapy, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission services, harm reduction services, including needles and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy, treatment for opportunistic infections and sexually transmitted infections, CD4 and viral load testing and monitoring.

“It has been further proposed that the ICT authority would ensure voluntary HIV testing and pre-test and post-test counselling are provided free of charge at hospitals and clinics and designated HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC) services,” he added.

Similarly, voluntary HIV testing and counselling shall be made available to key populations at higher risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV including but not limited to sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and other transgender people, prisoners and jail inmates, victims of sexual assaults, truckers and patients receiving repeated transfusions of blood, he added.

The NHS official said the UN bodies have proposed declaring all forms of mandatory testing unlawful but added that there were different expert opinions in this regard.

“In the proposed bill, it has been proposed that immigrants returning to Pakistan would be offered voluntary HIV counselling and testing services at entry points,” he added.

On the other hand, some other government officials said they had proposed HIV screening testing as mandatory for the migrants at points of entry as over 80 percent of the people living with HIV, who were seeking treatment in Pakistan, were deportees and they had a lot more acceptability of getting treated than people from other key populations. “Several experts are insisting that HIV screening for the migrants and deportees should be mandatory but results of positive people should not be disclosed to anybody. Those found HIV positive should be linked with treatment so that they could not infect their spouses,” senior health official added.

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