ISLAMABAD, Nov 13 (APP): Experts on Sunday called all segments of society to raise awareness to end the stigma for protection for HIV AIDS patients in the country as over 165,000 persons are HIV positive, with just 25% being aware of their status and enrolled with concerned centers.

Global advisor group on blood safety Prof. Hasan Abbas Zaheer talking to PTV news channel explained that HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) continues to be a major global public health issue and Pakistan is South Asia’s second-largest country in terms of the HIV epidemic.

He asked the media that it should also play an active role in creating awareness among the masses regarding HIV/Aids prevention.

Social stigma, negative behavior, and discrimination reduction should be part of national strategies to tackle HIV and AIDS, he stressed.

Community and especially patients and their families should be educated and made aware of their rights, he added.
HIV, Prevention Specialist, National Aids Control Program Dr . Saima Paracha said that there is a dire need to increase awareness among the public, and health activists as there was a big “challenge” to remove the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.

She said we need to encourage the patients infected with HIV AIDS to come forward and the system has to be more receptive to their needs.

Experts also warned that if immediate and vigorous action was not taken, HIV could spread in the country
fast.

Talking about symptoms of HIV, Treatment coordinator (NACP), Malik Umer said that most people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months after being infected, and many are unaware of their status until the later stages.

In the first few weeks after the initial infection people may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash, or sore throat, he added.

He said HIV infection progressively weakens the immune system, they can develop other signs and symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhea, and cough.

HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected people, such as blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal secretions, he added.

HIV can also be transmitted from a mother to her child during pregnancy and delivery, said Dr. Saima.

Experts also suggested that taking preventive measures is everybody’s responsibility to control HIV/AIDS at the early stage, adding the government was also taking all possible ways to create public awareness of the disease at the national level but there is a need to focus on private sector should also come forward and help the government to control the disease.

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