WHO team arrives to investigate HIV outbreak in Larkana

ISLAMABAD: An international team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Pakistan to support the response to an outbreak of HIV in Larkana in Sindh province on Tuesday.

The team of the experts have arrived in Pakistan at the request of the Ministry of Health to counter HIV on time.

The outbreak was first reported on 25 April 2019, and a major HIV screening programme started on 28 April. It was expanded on 8 May, with additional health workers being deployed. Further testing is ongoing in the area.

So far more than 600 HIV cases have been identified in Larkana district of Sindh province. The WHO says that majority are among children and young people. It was further added that more than half those affected are children under the age of 05. The health officials have so far conducted tests of more than 23,174 people.

This poses a particular challenge, said the WHO officials, prior to this outbreak, there were just over 1200 children diagnosed with HIV and receiving antiretroviral treatment across the country.

On 16 May local authorities established a new antiretroviral treatment clinic for children in Larkana district. Key tasks for the WHO-led team will include ascertaining the source of the outbreak and controlling it; providing technical expertise, particularly in the areas of HIV testing, paediatric HIV treatment and family counseling; and ensuring adequate supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antiretroviral medicines for both adults and children, as well as single-use needles and syringes.

The World health organization’s mission will include experts in emergency response management, epidemiology, HIV clinical care, and infection prevention and control from WHO staff as well as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). The team will work closely with the Ministry of Health and partners, including the Aga Khan University, Pakistan’s Field Epidemiology & Laboratory Training Program (FELTP), UNAIDS and UNICEF in Larkana.