Ban on Sale of Reusable Injections Sought to Curb Spread of HIV

Larkana: An immediate ban on sale of reusable injections and safe blood transfusions was urged by stakeholders on Monday at the advocacy and coordination meeting of stakeholders to the HIV outbreak response at taluka Ratodero. The participants stressed on following SOPs for blood screen before blood transfusion, hospital waste disposal management and ensuring fresh, sterile syringes are used.

Under its strategy, the SACP has taken onboard a team of infectious diseases specialists from the MMIDSP and other experts to chalk out a short and long-term strategy to deal with the HIV outbreak with 157 confirmed cases (30 adults and 127 children). The need to enhance capacity of healthcare workers, adherence to injection safety SOPs and the ways and means to implement such good practices was stressed. Suggested interventions include taking community leaders and the media onboard to create awareness about HIV/AIDS as well as Hepatitis, TB and other infections.

The well attended meet – chaired by Commissioner Larkana Saleem Raza Khuhro and moderated by Special Secretary Public Health Sindh, Hafeezullah Abbasi – had DG Health  Dr Masood Solangi, officials of the Sindh health department, National AIDS Control Programme, Sindh AIDS Control Programme in attendance.  Members of the JIT, formed to investigate the case of HIV positive doctor alleged to be spreading the infection by reusing needles, were also present. The meeting was attended by representatives of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan (MMIDSP), Dow University of Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Indus Hospital, Jinnah Sindh Medical University, SBBMU, People’s Public Health Initiative (PPHI), Expanded Immunization Programme (EPI), LHWs, WHO, UNICEF, JSi/USAID, and UNAIDS.

The SACP was represented by its programme manager Dr Sikandar Ali Memon and deputy programme manager Saqib Ali Sheikh. The team of doctors that arrived from Karachi to conduct investigations includes Dr Fatima Mir, Dr Faisal Mehmood, Professor Rehana Siddiqi, Dr Shehla Baqi, Dr Sunil Dodani, Dr Azizullah Khan, Dr Zeeshan Ali and Dr Anwar.

Later, in a session with local media, medical experts urged that HIV reporting should be done in a humane an empathetic manner. The media was urged to help destigmatize the disease and respect the privacy of victims by not sharing the names, photographs and medical reports.

Infection Control awareness is generally lacking throughout the Sindh healthcare system. Government hospitals have poor standards of Infection Control, serve people of a lower socio-economic strata and have high patient volumes. Moreover, there are no mechanisms in place for monitoring and quantifying the incidence of healthcare related infections in public and private hospitals and other healthcare facilities, which would be useful data towards increasing awareness and devising strategies for their containment and control.

Lack of appropriate training combined with absence of adequate hand hygiene facilities and personal protective equipment, fragmented hospital waste disposal plans; insufficient knowledge and casual attitudes towards infection control continue to contribute to healthcare-associated infections and spread of infections like TB and HIV. The current perilous situation is a direct consequence of a lack of Infection Control infrastructure in most government-run and private hospitals.

MMIDSP is committed to disseminate awareness and knowledge within the communities, of common infections and their prevention. MMIDSP team consists of highly qualified Infectious Diseases physicians, Clinical Microbiologists and nurses who are trained in IPC.

SHCC is making serious efforts to raise safety standards in the healthcare facilities operating in the Sindh province. In response to the need identified by SHCC, MMIDSP has taken upon itself the responsibility of training and updating physicians and healthcare professionals in principles and practices of infection prevention within healthcare facilities in Sindh and in other parts of Pakistan.