First association for people living with HIV in Pakistan
24 August 2007
A new national initiative from UNAIDS in Pakistan aims to ensure that communities and the government listen to the experts - people living with HIV - when making decisions about treatment, care, support and prevention.
Twenty-four year old Masood is the newest recruit to one of UNAIDS’ latest initiatives: the“Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Pakistan”.
The association was launched on World AIDS Day 2006 with the support of UNAIDS and its UN co-sponsors, and the Pakistan government. The aim is to make sure that people living with HIV are consulted when decisions about prevention, treatment, care and support are taken at federal and provincial level.
In keeping with the principle of greater involvement of people living with HIV, all the executive board members of the association are HIV positive. Now, it is establishing the first network among people living with HIV in Pakistan to provide a platform for them to speak in unison.
“In my experience, most HIV positive people here have difficulty conveying their needs, often because of poverty and because the literacy rate is low and information provided is limited,” says Masood.
“Here in Pakistan HIV is not seen as a priority and people have many issues surrounding their treatment, care and support, stigma and discrimination and society’s attitudes.” Stigma and discrimination is specifically associated with children and women from rural areas of Pakistan. These women have been infected by their husbands; most of them were migrant workers who have been deported by certain countries without being told about their HIV positive status.
The Association has already begun to bring the small number of NGOs and self-help groups together. The objective is to provide training in leadership skills and health information, including adherence to anti-retroviral treatment.
With a Masters in Business Administration from University in Lahore, Masood is working with them to organize themselves strategically, to develop policies and to raise funds.
There has been a three-day workshop on capacity building already, focusing on the issues for people living with HIV in Pakistan and how to operate an effective positive self-help group. Another two-day workshop focused on HIV literacy helped pre-testing and collecting feed back on the newly developed booklets and other information materials produced in Urdu and English for people living with HIV (PLHIV).
UNAIDS will be supporting more workshops across the country and is planning to do this activity in collaboration with Association of PLHIV, provincial and federal Government and civil society organizations working on AIDS issues.
“We aim to contribute to improving people’s lives, give them a sense of belonging, political empowerment and strength of spirit,” says Masood.
At the same time the Association aims to contribute to the national goal – to “prevent a generalized epidemic in Pakistan by containing the spread of HIV and AIDS and elimination of stigma and discrimination against those infected and affected” .
*The country's epidemic is concentrated and intensifying. Pakistan has one of the highest rates of injection drug use in the world (4.5 per capita per annum), and 64% of injecting drug users report use of non-sterile needles. Frequent use and reuse of unsterilized and contaminated needles contributes to a high transmission rate of HIV among injecting drug users (10%). The World Health Organisation and UNAIDS estimate the actual prevalence may be as high as 85,000 (46 000- 210 000).
During the Launching ceremony of Association of PLHIV in 1 st December, 2006 Dr. Aldo Landi, UNAIDS Country Coordinator said:
“This is the first step as a breakthrough in the fight against stigma and discrimination”. He further expressed the need of involvement of PLHIV at both federal and provincial level. Most importantly PLHIV should be treated in full respect of human rights.
Masood is a hemophiliac who contracted HIV through infected blood. In Pakistan, about 50 per cent of blood products are screened for HIV before blood transfusion – and 1.5 million blood bags are transfused every year. About 18 per cent of people living with HIV in Pakistan were infected in this way.
“I am very ambitious because I am facing and feeling the pain,”says Masood. “I want to make a real difference by encouraging people living with HIV to realize how important it is for them to be involved at every level.
“They themselves will bring about change. I am happy to be the first drop of rain.”
More information on Pakistan
Visit UNAIDS Pakistan web site
Read the report - Implementing the UN learning strategy on HIV/AIDS: Sixteen Case Studies