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UNAIDS Officials Urge Pakistan to Head Off Spread of HIV/AIDS
Pakistan risks following in the footsteps of its neighbor India, where HIV infection rates have risen dramatically in the past five years, if the country does not "act quickly" to curb the spread of the virus, U.N. officials said last week, Agence
France-Presse reports. Kristan Schoultz, UNAIDS country adviser for Pakistan, said at the launch of the U.N. Statement on HIV/AIDS in Pakistan that the country's "situation of low prevalence but high risk presents a window of opportunity" to halt spread of the disease. However, she said that the window is "probably very short." As of October 2001, 1,813 AIDS cases had been reported in Pakistan, which has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 0.1%. However, increased intravenous drug use, "indiscriminate" blood transfusions, unsterilized medical instruments, low condom use, increased poverty, the "low status of women," poor literacy, high levels of mobility and low HIV/AIDS awareness could lead to an epidemic, according to the statement, which was sponsored by 14 U.N. agencies. The majority of infections are traceable to IV drug use and unsafe sex among heterosexuals, although there is "limited evidence" of unsafe sex among men who have sex with men (Agence France-Presse, 3/15). "We now know that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is rapidly evolving in South Asia. Fortunately the epidemic has yet to take firm hold in Pakistan, though there are signs that the nation is vulnerable in many ways," Schoultz said. "Pakistan's admirable response to AIDS so far will have to be strengthened and sustained over many years to come," she added, calling for greater awareness and leadership (Reuters, 3/15).
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