Agence France Presse (12.01.11) - Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The charity group Pakistan Society provides support services
to those diagnosed with HIV and works to reduce AIDS-related
stigma across the southern city of Karachi and the wider Sindh
Pakistan, the second-largest country in South Asia, had an
estimated 97,400 HIV/AIDS cases in 2009, according to UN data.
The National AIDS Control Program there says Pakistan is a
"low-prevalence, high-risk" country, meaning rates are low
among the general population, but there is a high
concentration of cases among groups such as injecting drug
State-run hospitals, clinics, and health centers across
Pakistan provide free antiretroviral treatment, but stigma and
ignorance continue to be problems.
Rubina Naz was diagnosed with HIV four years ago, following
the death of her husband, a drug addict. They married when she
was 16 and had two sons and two daughters together, but Naz
did not know he had AIDS until after his death. "I didn't know
what it was until I was tested [HIV-] positive," she said.
"My in-laws threw me out and took my kids. Even most of my own
family treated me like a sinner and stayed away when I was
desperate to be helped," said Naz.
Naz now works as a kitchen assistant at Pakistan Society. The
charity's head, Dr. Saleem Azam, said her case is typical. "In
our male-dominant society, women have fewer choices to save
themselves from their HIV-positive husbands," said Azam. "The
majority have not heard of the disease and if they do, they
cannot stop their husbands from afflicting them."
The 2009 survey revealed that 15 percent of wives of injecting
drug users in the Larkana district, home of the Bhutto
political dynasty, were HIV-positive. Azam believes actual
incidence may be much higher. There could be many women "who
die of the disease without even knowing what happened to
them," he said.