Last month an unfortunate epidemic of HIV broke out in Larkana city, Sindh. HIV refers to Human Immunodeficiency Virus which eventually leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a disease which paralyzes the immune system of a person. As a result, the person catches all the deadly infections without any resistance.
How did it all start?
Initially, a dozen cases of HIV emerged with victims including children as young as 16 years of age. The sudden outbreak of the deadly virus in a single district was not making sense. Thus an investigation was launched. The investigation traced the epidemic back to a local doctor since all the infected people used to be his patients.
The doctor was using a contaminated syringe. He himself has been found to have HIV, making the case against him more plausible. The doctor was arrested and a vast screening drive has started across the district since then. According to media reports, up till now, 128 people have tested positive for HIV across the district with a majority of children among the victims.
What do we learn from this tragedy?
AIDS is a communicable disease. It can spread through bodily fluids such as blood, semen and breast milk. Needles, once contaminated by the blood of an HIV positive person, become highly contagious. If other people are injected with contaminated needles, it is highly likely that they will get infected too.
The Larkana incident is a typical example of cruel carelessness of our health-care system. It not only shows a lack of training of the physicians but also ignorance on the part of the general population. People in our country are not even aware of some basic preventive measures.
A doctor was using a contaminated syringe but none of the patients demanded a new packed needle themselves or at least sterilization. This goes on to show the urgent need for awareness programs about AIDS in our country.
Strict policies for doctors who malpractice is also the need of the hour. As far as personal caution goes, make sure you always buy new syringes from your trusted pharmacist yourself instead of relying on the physician. Safe-sex and regular testing after exposure to HIV can also help you tackle the virus.
This article was produced in partnership with oladoc.com, a digital health company in Pakistan. Using oladoc, you can find the best general physician in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and book an appointment online.