United Nations Says Pakistan Vulnerable to HIV/AIDS Epidemic
March 15, 2002
Pakistan has largely escaped the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, but health experts said Friday that the country of 140 million people needed to take advantage of a window of opportunity to stop the disease from spreading. Kristan Schoultz, country program advisor for the UN's AIDS (UNAIDS) agency in Pakistan, said the current low rate of HIV/AIDS infection presented the country with a chance to beat the virus.
"Unfortunately, I think this window of opportunity is probably very short," Schoultz told a news conference. She cited the example of Pakistan's neighbor, India, where the number of new cases has risen sharply and now only trails South Africa in total people infected. Official data show Pakistan had an estimated 1,813 HIV/AIDS cases as of October 2001.
"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 in many years to come."
Factors contributing to the spread of HIV in Pakistan include poverty, power imbalances between men and women, low levels of education and literacy, and challenges in the areas of governance and human rights, a statement said. Sexual contact and injection-drug use are the most common modes of HIV transmission, Schoultz said.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.