ISLAMABAD: An international team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday to support the response to an outbreak of HIV in Larkana in Sindh province.
According to an official of WHO, the team has arrived at the request of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.
He said key tasks for the WHO-led team will include ascertaining the source of the outbreak and controlling it, providing technical expertise, particularly in the areas of HIV testing, paediatric HIV treatment and family counseling and ensuring adequate supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antiretroviral medicines for both adults and children, as well as single-use needles and syringes.
The WHO mission included experts in emergency response management, epidemiology, HIV clinical care, and infection prevention and control from WHO staff as well as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN).
The team will work closely with the Ministry of Health and partners, including the Aga Khan University, Pakistan’s Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP), UNAIDS and UNICEF in Larkana.
The outbreak was first reported on April 25, 2019, and a major HIV screening programme started on April 28. It was expanded on May 8 with additional health workers being deployed and testing is ongoing.
So far more than 600 HIV cases have been identified.
The majority are among children and young people as more than half those affected are children under the age of five.
He added this poses a particular challenge.
Prior to this outbreak, there were just over 1200 children diagnosed with HIV and receiving antiretroviral treatment in the whole of Pakistan.
On May 16 local authorities established a new antiretroviral treatment clinic for children in Larkana