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
"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
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,
"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
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.