International teams arriving to investigate HIV outbreak.

Byline: Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD -- The federal government has sought the help of international public health organisations to investigate the recent HIV outbreak in Sindh, said to be the largest in the history of the country, it announced on Sunday.

'We are expecting a 10-member rapid response team from the World Health Organisation [WHO] and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] to arrive in a few days and we will be able to know the exact reason for the outbreak of the disease in Ratodero,' said Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, at a press conference on Sunday.

The CDC is a leading national public health institute in the US and works with several public health institutions in Pakistan.

He said so far, 21,375 persons had been tested in Ratodero, a taluka of Larkana in Sindh. 'Out of whom 681 have tested positive for HIV and 537 are between the ages of two to 15. Some are even less than two years old, even though the parents of these children are HIV negative.'

Dilating on the possible reasons for the HIV outbreak in young children, he said, 'We have a hypothesis that they became infected with HIV either through unscreened blood transfusions or usage of infected syringes as they are usually re-packed and re-used in unhygienic conditions. Third reason could be the lack of infection prevention and control, and unprotected sex.'

As to what other measures they are taking to counter the HIV epidemic, he said they had ordered 50,000 more HIV test kits to screen all possible patients and three more HIV treatment centres were also...

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