HIV Testing Care and Treatment: A Guide for Health Care Providers in Pakistan


  • Author- Ayesha Anwar, Hammad Ali, Fozia Qamar, Saima Abbas, Bushra Jamil, Nasim Akhtar, Asma Nasim, Somia Iqtidar, Joseph M Garland, Fizza S Gillani


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an evolving epidemic and a major public health challenge in Pakistan. Currently, the HIV epidemic is growing not only in key populations such as injection drug users and sex workers, but it is also spreading to Pakistan's general population. Poor infection control practices, including reuse of needles for therapeutic injections, poor screening of blood products, and usage of contaminated equipment at healthcare facilities, remain a significant source of iatrogenic spread of HIV in Pakistan's general population. There are global strategies in place to help countries take control of and curb HIV outbreaks. Pakistan is working towards achieving global standards of HIV control by providing free ART medications to all HIV diagnosed patients registered with its HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) centers in the country. It is a proven fact that ART is highly effective in achieving a patient's viral load suppression, thus breaking the chain of transmission as well as ensuring a remarkably high quality of life for patients. Yet Pakistan faces social, economic, and religious barriers to controlling its rapidly evolving HIV epidemic due to testing and treatment delays. There is, therefore, a dire need to raise awareness among Pakistan's general population about HIV transmission and to educate physicians on proper HIV testing and management, including detailed history taking, identifying at-risk patients, counseling, and ensuring continuity of care for HIV patients. Physicians also serve as key influencers for the public and can positively influence the general public's attitudes and behaviors, with the goal of reducing HIV stigma to help curb Pakistan's rapidly evolving HIV epidemic.