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Pakistan Estimates Up to 80,000 AIDS Patients


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Friday 1,700 HIV/AIDS cases had been confirmed but the total could be nearly 50 times as large because of taboos on discussing the disease.

"Taboos on AIDS compel a number of AIDS patients to hide their disease, making it very difficult for policymakers to make a policy on the bases of incomplete data," Health Ministry official Dr. Birjees Kazi told a press conference on World AIDS Day.

Kazi said there might be up to 80,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers - versus the official figure of 1,700 cases - as many hide the disease because of prejudice against AIDS patients.

There were cultural taboos about discussing sexual behaviour and a lack of awareness of the disease in many Asian countries, he said.

"We need to find culturally appropriate ways to express such behaviour with the teenagers in Asia, where young ones are affected more severely," said an adviser for the UNAIDS programme in Pakistan, Kristan K Schoultz.

The official rates of infection in Pakistan are low by global standards. Schoultz said neighbouring India now has the world's second largest total of HIV/AIDS sufferers.

"Luckily the level of disease is very low in Pakistan, but still the condition is not favourable because of denial from the individual and policymakers," she said.

The Pakistan government and UNAIDS this year completed a survey of 2.7 million people to determine the level of disease in the country.

Kazi said some 67.7 percent of the AIDS cases acquired the disease through sexual contact. The survey showed that of reported HIV/AIDS cases some 83 percent were in the age group 20 to 49.

"The present trends indicate that the unknown cases also would have acquired the disease through sexual contact," Kazi said.

However, the United Nations and the Pakistan government plan a pilot project next year in the southern port city Karachi to assess the number of those with HIV/AIDS because of concern about rising drug consumption in Pakistan.

Government figures show drug addicts in the country total 1.2 million people but private organisations estimate there are over two million.


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Information in this article was accurate in December 1, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.