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PAKISTAN: People living with HIV/AIDS thrown out of hospital, says NGO

An NGO working with people living with HIV/AIDS in Pakistan has expressed outrage after three HIV positive patients were allegedly thrown out of a hospital in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) due to discrimination.

“These patients were thrown out because of discrimination and ignorance of the disease,” chief executive of the AWARD NGO, Maimoona Masood Khan told IRIN from Peshawar, the provincial capital of the NWFP on Monday.

She maintained that misconceptions about how the HIV virus is contracted were responsible for the patients being thrown out. “This kind of behavior is going to make this issue go underground and if this happens it will come back as a full blown epidemic.” The killer disease carries huge social stigma in this deeply Islamic society and very few people are open about their HIV positive status.

The patients were allegedly ejected from the Khyber hospital over the past two months, with the most recent case on 20 March.

“One of the patients is 25 years old and his immune system is very low and is in a very bad state,” she stressed.
The young man and the other two patients, another male and a middle aged woman, have all been transferred to a private hospital under the care of AWARD which is covering the cost of their hospitalisation.

Khan has written to the Pakistani health authorities, calling for action to be taken against hospital staff. “It is a government hospital and the medical staff should be reprimanded,” Khan lamented, adding that such cases were common. “Can you imagine how many HIV positive patients could have been neglected in the past and thrown out and not told that they are HIV positive because people just don’t know how to deal with it?” she said.

Relevant Pakistani authorities say the matter is being addressed seriously. “We have received a letter from the NGO and we are investigating the matter to find out exactly what happened,” head of Pakistan’s National Aids Control Programme [NACP], Asma Bokhari told IRIN.

There are an estimated 80,000 HIV positive people out of a population 140 million in Pakistan today. However, official figures are much lower. Towards the end of last year, 1,942 cases of HIV and 231 of full-blown AIDS were reported to the NACP.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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