Aug 27 - Sep 02, 2007

AIDs is rapidly spreading in third world countries and comprehensive policy is needed to check its spread. Pakistan having low prevalence of the HIV/AIDs can prevent its rapid spread by mass awareness campaign as the medical science has not succeeded in preparing its vaccine or curative therapy.

These views were expressed by Minister for Special Education Dr Tahir Ali Javed, Standing Committee for Health Punjab Chairman Dr Muzaffar Ali Sheikh, Pakistan Medical Society Chairman Dr Masood Akhtar Sheikh, while addressing a workshop titled "How to stop AIDs spread in third world countries," under the auspices of Pakistan Medical Society.

Dr Tahir Javed, speaking on this occasion, said that all the problems related to the HIV/AIDs would be thoroughly discussed with the experts. He stressed that such seminars are imparting updated information to the youth, who are misguided by hakims and quacks. 'In some of the African countries, AIDS is spreading like flu and common cold as over 80% of the neonates are HIV positive in this region', he added.

Dr Muzaffar Sheikh said that the Punjab government is providing better healthcare facilities of proper screening to the high risk groups even in the remotest parts. The government has made efforts to control AIDS effectively by providing the facility of free blood and AIDs screening tests to the people. 'Pakistan is one of those countries were AIDs is not yet much prevalent. It is the need of the hour that the people of the country should be informed about the causes of the spread of the HIV/AIDs and possible preventive measures', he added.

Dr Masood Sheikh said that in the days to come AIDS can emerge as a serious threat to people's lives while prevention is the only weapon to counter it. He said that PMS is chalking out a comprehensive plan for the public awareness under which seminars would be held in the educational institutions and populous areas. He urged the people to lead their lives in accordance to the teachings of Islam and restrict their sexual relations to their life partners. The AIDs awareness campaign should be extended to rural areas through union councils, he added. It may be mentioned that the UN health agency warned in its annual report that with new diseases emerging at an unprecedented rate, global public health security depends on international cooperation and surveillance more than at any previous time in history.

According to UN, International public health security is both a collective aspiration and a mutual responsibility. The new watchwords are diplomacy, cooperation, transparency and preparedness, which calls pandemic influenza the most feared threat to health security in our times.

Experts fear that the current bird flu virus, which has so far infected 321 people, killing 194 of them, could mutate to easy human-to-human transmission. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, which spread easily between humans, is estimated to have killed from 20 million to 40 million people. The experts say a new flu pandemic is not a question of if but of when. Other centuries-old threats, such as pandemic influenza, malaria and tuberculosis, continue to pose a threat to health through a combination of mutation, rising resistance to antimicrobial medicines and weak health systems. New threats have also emerged, linked to potential terrorist attacks, chemical incidents and radio-nuclear accidents.

The potential health and economic impact was seen in 2003 with SARS, which cost Asian countries an estimated $60 billion of gross expenditure and business losses.