The government of Pakistan has asked the help of international countries after more than 700 people in their country, in which 595 are children, have tested positive for HIV in Ratodero, a city in Southern Pakistan.
The HIV outbreak comes after unqualified medical practitioners in the city started to reuse syringes.
Zafar Mirza, the Health Minister of Pakistan, said, “As part of key tasks, a WHO-led team will determine the factors behind the outbreak and suggest control measures.”
Minister Mirza added, “They will] provide technical expertise in the areas of HIV testing, pediatric HIV treatment, and family counseling.”
On May 31, a medical screening was carried out in Ratodero. The results showed 728 people tested positive in HIV, in which 595 were children who are only 2 to 5 years old.
The information was shared by the officials of the National AIDS Control Programme of Pakistan.
This outbreak as considered as the world’s first ever HIV outbreak where most of the affected people are kids.
Also, 73 women tested positive in HIV during the screening.
The Director of the Health Emergency Information and Risk Assessment at the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization, Olive Morgan, the WHO is leading a 12-member international team that consists of professionals from all around the world.
The 12 member team will have health experts from UNICEF, UNAIDS, Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
The team will prioritize to find how the infection started out and will try to contain it before it spreads and affects more.
The team will also provide treatment for the children and provide counseling for the children.
Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai, the National AIDS Control Programme Manager of Pakistan, said, “Initial official investigations conducted by our organization in collaboration with provincial and federal health departments point towards the reuse of infected syringes in the area and also unscreened blood transfusions. [Other reasons] could be poor infection prevention and unprotected sex.”
Pakistan already has 165,000 people who are diagnosed with HIV, but only 25,000 people are registered with the Provincial and National HIV Programmes.