October, 2011

HIV/AIDS in Pakistan translating facts to actions


Madam, over the last three decades, human immunodeficiency virus/ acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) has evolved from an assortment of case-reports to a global epidemic. The first reports of HIV in Pakistan in 1987 implicated contaminated blood transfusions. Thereafter, HIV was predominantly reported in expatriates from other countries such as the Gulf States. Estimates from UNAIDS placed the number of HIV cases in Pakistan at 85,000 in 2005.1
The presence and interlinking of intravenous drug users (IDU) and high-risk sexual networks combined with precariously low levels of HIV knowledge indicate that there is huge potential for rapid spread of HIV to other high-risk groups and its further expansion to the general population through bridging groups in Pakistan.1 Pakistan experienced its first major HIV outbreak in 2004 in an IDU community in Larkana city.2 Since then, epidemiological studies in IDU communities all over Pakistan have recorded alarmingly high rates of HIV cases. According to the latest data from the National AIDS Control Programme of Pakistan, HIV prevalence among IDUs had jumped from 0.4% in 2003 to 7.6% in 2004,3 this represents a more than 100-fold increase. Commercial sex workers in Pakistan represent the second most serious threat for HIV transmission. In addition to female prostitutes, male transvestites (locally named Hijras) are probably important contributors to HIV demographics in Pakistan. HIV prevalence among Hijras in Karachi approximates 4%.2 The situation is bound to be even more worrisome in those parts of Pakistan where homosexuality may be a socially tolerated behavior.4 Furthermore, the majority of men having sex with men in Pakistan are married to women;5 this brings into light their possible role as a bridge to the general population.
In order to grapple the impending epidemic of HIV in Pakistan, efforts such as the National AIDS Programme, provincial AIDS programmes, and responses by other private and non-governmental sectors require greater liaison and integration. Community participation is also pivotal to the success of any HIV prevention programme. The stigma and discrimination towards HIV/AIDS in the society can only be removed when prominent figures including politicians, parliamentarians and celebrities start discussing the subject in public (Figure).

Given the scarce literacy rate and exponential population boom in Pakistan, the battle against HIV/AIDS indeed represents a challenging, albeit not impossible, onus. Pakistan appears to have high-risk ingredients for the making of a large scale HIV epidemic. If HIV/AIDS is allowed to mushroom unchecked in Pakistan, it will claim its devastating epidemic potential, as it has already done in many other parts of the world. Timely action is, therefore, needed to prevent any such an eventuality. We must recognize the magnitude of this threat, reflect on its source and react to the challenges it poses.

Umair Khalid, Taimur Saleem
Medical Graduates (Class of 2009), Aga Khan University, Karachi.


1.UNAIDS. Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2006. (Online) (Cited 2011 Jan 10). Available from URL: GlobalReport/2006/200605-fs_asia_en.pdf.
2.Shah SA, Altaf A, Mujeeb SA, Memon A. An outbreak of HIV infection among injection drug users in a small town in Pakistan: potential for national implications. Int J STD AIDS 2004; 15: 209.
3.World Bank Report 2006. (Online) (Cited 2011 Jan 2). Available from URL: Resources/ HIV-AIDS-brief-August06-PKA.pdf.
4.Hanif M. No safer sex for Pakistan\'s gays. In World AIDS. Volume 11. London: Panos Institute; 1993.
5.Khan OA, Hyder AA. HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men in Pakistan. Sex Health Exch 1998; 2: 12-3.

News & Events

WHO/GOARN Request for technical assistance for Cholera Control in Northern Iraq

Request for assistance

WHO is requesting assistance from GOARN partners to identify the following cholera and diarrhoeal diseases expertise to support the Ministry of Health of Iraq in cholera risk assessment and immediate preparedness activities to improve the health outcomes of the Syrian refugees current living in camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

  • two (2) epidemiologists
  • two (2) clinical management experts
  • one (1) environmental health expert (WATSAN)
  • one (1)laboratory expert


6 day mission starting 13 June 2014 (this excludes travel time).


Northern Iraq (Kurdistan region).

Language requirements

All candidates must be fluent in English- written, spoken and comprehension. Fluency in Arabic is an asset. Knowledge, abilities and skills All candidates are expected to demonstrate the following

  • Ability to conceptualize and promote innovative strategies and policies.
  • Ability to communicate and write in a clear concise manner, and to develop effective guidelines.
  • Excellent negotiation and interpersonal skills complemented by ability to motivate and lead others and to promote consensus. Tact, discretion and diplomacy
  • Demonstrated ability for project appraisal, project management, monitoring and evaluation and project impact assessment.
  • Ability to work with host governments and their agents, INGOs and national NGOs an advantage.
  • Proven experience of managing a large workload and multiple priorities.
  • Ability to work in difficult conditions.

Support to the mission

WHO/GOARN will cover the travel and per diem (to cover daily expense in the field) expenses for the duration of their mission. GOARN missions do NOT offer salary, consultancy fees or any other form of remuneration.

WHO will provide appropriate logistics support for the field mission. Pre-deployment orientation/training may be required at WHO.

Partners offers of assistance

Partners are requested to reply with offers of assistance, together with CVs and details of the availability of staff for this mission by email to latest by 30 May 2014. Details of all offers from partners and eventual deployments will be maintained on the GOARN SharePoint.

Operational Contacts

Mamunur Malik WHO EMRO

William Perea WHO HQ

Patrick Drury GOARN