Responding to a request made by the Ministry of Health, 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.
Key tasks for the WHO-led team will include ascertaining the source of the outbreak and controlling it; providing technical expertise, particularly in 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 WHO mission includes 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.
The HIV outbreak in Larkana was first reported on April 25, 2019, and a major HIV screening programme started on April 28. It was expanded on May 8, with additional health workers being deployed. Testing is ongoing.
So far, more than 600 HIV cases have been identified. The majority are among children and young people: more than half those affected are children under the age of 5. This poses a particular challenge. Prior to this outbreak, there were just over 1,200 children diagnosed with HIV and receiving antiretroviral treatment in the whole of Pakistan. On May 16, local authorities established a new antiretroviral treatment clinic for children in Larkana.