ISLAMABAD (Agencies): In a joint effort to address the issue of HIV stigma, five awareness sessions were organized throughout Pakistan with the support of UNDP and UNAIDS. The final consultative session took place in Quetta, Balochistan.

The primary objective of these nationwide consultative sessions is to formulate a strategy for law enforcement agencies to effectively respond to the growing challenge of discrimination related to HIV. Various law enforcement agencies, including Balochistan Police, Quetta Traffic Police, CTD, ANF, National Highways and Motorway Police, FIA, civil societies, and NGOs actively participated in the session held in Quetta.

Dr. Syed Kaleem Imam, with his professional expertise, hosted the session and provided an in-depth overview of the current situation of HIV in Pakistan. He emphasized the need for individual and collective efforts to combat the increasing trend of HIV in society. Dr. Imam emphasized that HIV should not be feared, but rather addressed with appropriate steps to ensure no one suffers. He stressed that AIDS is caused by multiple factors, and individuals should not be blamed for their HIV-positive status. Instead, society needs to adopt strategies for behavioral changes and develop an action plan to bring about positive transformations.

The opening session’s chief guest was Additional Inspector General of Police Admin Jawad Ahmed Dogar, who thanked all participants for their involvement. He stressed the importance of spreading awareness about HIV, which is often considered a sensitive topic. He commended UNDP and UNAIDS for providing a platform to discuss this subject openly and for breaking the stigma associated with HIV across the country. He emphasized the need for an awareness campaign to distinguish between HIV stigma and discrimination and urged everyone to take concrete steps for prevention and safety.

Additional Inspector General of Police CTC, Kashif Alam, appreciated UNDP’s efforts in providing valuable information about HIV and spreading awareness among law enforcement agencies.

A comprehensive presentation on HIV was delivered by Dr. K. D. Usmani, shedding light on the issue’s dimensions and the significant progress made in combating its spread. He also highlighted preventive measures.

Ms. Batul, representing UNDP Balochistan, shared the efforts being made to address HIV in the region. She highlighted the provision of free HIV testing facilities and counseling services by experts at Balochistan Medical College, Quetta.

DIG Quetta Ghulam Azfar Mehsar expressed his gratitude for hosting the session in Quetta and pledged to issue a circular to Quetta police officers and jawans to implement the knowledge gained from the session. He also expressed his eagerness to organize more such beneficial sessions at the Police Training College Quetta in the future.

Senior journalist Mr. Shahzada Zulfikar drew attention to the role of people who collect remains from hospitals as a major cause of HIV spread. He stressed the importance of proper disposal to prevent such wastage from being discarded in garbage bins.

Dr. Rubaba Khan Buledi, Chairperson of Women Parliamentarian Forum Balochistan, highlighted the unique societal perspective towards HIV-infected individuals, causing them to hesitate in coming forward. She emphasized the need for psychological counseling and an awareness campaign to address these issues effectively. Dr. Buledi stressed the importance of education and behavior change, and urged civil society, law enforcement agencies, and parliamentarians to work collaboratively towards creating a more enlightened and compassionate society.

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