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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
PAKISTAN: Treatment Center Begins to Break AIDS Stigma
Ashfaq Yusufzai
October 26, 2011
Inter Press Service (10.21.11) - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Sept. 1, the first Family Care Center was inaugurated in Peshawar's Hayatabad Medical Complex, where it will provide HIV testing, treatment, care, and counseling. The center already has 600 registered patients, including 175 from neighboring Afghanistan. The center provides antenatal care and child care and treatment under one roof, said gynecologist Lubna Hassan, its director.

"Today is the best day of my life," said Gul Hamid, who tested HIV-positive two years ago in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was immediately deported back to Pakistan. His family received excellent counseling at the center and have since become much friendlier to him, he said. "Finally, my family members are convinced that HIV/AIDS can't be transmitted through handshakes or shared meals and utensils." Sultan Sher said psychologists at the center convinced his brothers, sisters, and uncles that HIV is not transmittable by casual contact.

"My brother, who tested positive in [the UAE city of] Sharjah one year ago, has faced a tough time since his return," said Sher's brother Alam.

"We have to do away with the stigma associated with the disease so people stop looking down upon patients and instead encourage them to talk openly about safety and prevention," said Hassan.

Under an agreement, the center will train Afghan doctors and nurses to help them counsel and treat patients in their home country. In the future, the facility will become a Center of Excellence for South and Central Asia and train health care providers on HIV treatment and patient management, Hassan said.