Without treatment, HIV infection advances in stages, getting worse over time. HIV gradually destroys the immune system and eventually causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). New data shows that HIV/AIDS infection cases are on the rise in Pakistan.
An estimated 133,000 people in Pakistan were tested positive, according to statistics from the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), adding as many as 21,129 new cases reported in 2017 while some 9,000 patients died of HIV this year.
The report, titled "Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance in Pakistan 2016-17", said that though the number of new HIV cases had declined globally, Pakistan remains one of the few countries to witness an increase.
"However, we can control AIDS by raising awareness about causes, symptoms and prevention of this disease among the public," he said. "Instead of stigmatising or getting afraid of AIDS, it is important to see a doctor and get treatment."
The Health Ministry initiated the NACP in 1987 for effective control of the epidemic.
The organization is working on HIV testing and counselling, surveillance and treatment, care and support services and data collection across the country.
Rizwan Qazi, head of HIV/AIDS Department at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital (PIMS), told Xinhua that the centre for treatment and prevention at the hospital had registered a total of 2,834 patients with HIV positive and AIDS from 2005-17.
The Islamabad-based hospital registered as many as 322 patients with HIV and AIDS positive in 2015, 335 in 2016 whereas it had registered 207 patients so far this year, according to Qazi.
Deputy Director of PIMS Waseem Ahmed Khawaja said AIDS was still one of the greatest public health challenges faced by low and middle-income countries.
"In Pakistan, HIV is still a taboo that leads to discrimination. The patient would become an outcast when he socially disclosed that he is suffering from the deadly disease."