Socioeconomic, Biological Factors Placing Women in Pakistan at Increased Risk of HIV, Health Minister Says
Women in Pakistan are at increased risk of contracting HIV because of socioeconomic and biological factors, Minister of Health Muhammad Nasir Khan said recently at a workshop at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, The International News reports. Nasir said gender disparities in literacy, education, economic empowerment and control of resources also are fueling the spread of the disease among women in the country. According to Nasir, men are seen as the "decision-makers" in Pakistani society, and women, particularly those in rural areas, depend on men for access to outside information, The News reports.
According to Nasir, 85,000 people in the country are living with HIV, which is 0.1% of the population. He added that the majority of those living with HIV are men, who are transmitting the virus to their sexual partners. Injection drug use in several cities also is exacerbating the problem, Nasir said. Fifty-two percent of IDUs in Karachi and 82% of IDUs in Lahore reuse needles, he said. He also noted that drug use has shifted to urban areas, causing a concentrated epidemic in cities, such as Karachi, where HIV prevalence among IDUs has risen more than 25% in the last three years. Nasir added that male and female commercial sex workers are engaging in unsafe sex practices in part because of social marginalization and a lack of access to HIV/AIDS education. Qasim Jan, university vice chancellor and workshop chair, stressed the need for greater HIV/AIDS research and awareness. He said the university would welcome collaborative projects between institutions to study HIV/AIDS epidemiology and new approaches to fighting the disease (Khalid, The International News, 5/3).