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World AIDS Day observed: MoPH registers 1,874 HIV/AIDS cases from 1989-2014

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By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday marked the World AIDS Day.

Minister of Public Health, Ferozuddin Feroz, said that from 1989 up to the end of 2014 the ministry has registered around 1,874 cases of HIV/AIDS.

He said that 1,481 men, 327 women and 66 children, below the age of 15 years, were infected by AIDS.

Pointing out the main factors behind the staggering number of HIV cases, he said that homosexuality among men, lack of standard healthcare services particularly in surgery wards, poverty, joblessness, illiteracy, immigrations, blood transfusion and existence of thee million addicts in the country are responsible for spread of AIDS.

But the minister of public health said that Afghanistan is the country which has low-level of HIV/AIDS cases in the region as compared to the other countries.

“Afghanistan’s ability to better diagnose HIV has improved tremendously in the past due to our strengthened surveillance system, people’s increased awareness about the disease and major improvements in the quality of HIV services and blood testing. We must ensure that quality HIV treatment reaches all those in need,” he mentioned.

Hinting to the efforts of the ministry to control AIDS, he stressed that accelerated efforts are necessary to ensure HIV prevention and treatment services reach everyone in need, adding that currently HIV testing and counseling services are available in 10 provinces and nearly 650 people living with HIV are receiving anti-retroviral therapy in two provinces. Five health centers provide services to pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Feroz termed strengthening of HIV testing methods, expansion of the availability of treatment options and increasing the number of health centers providing anti-retroviral therapy as crucial measures for control of AIDS and HIV epidemic in the country.

Country Representative of WHO in Afghanistan, Dr Rechard Peeperkorn,  said that around 37 million people live with HIV all over the world and only a bit over half of them know their HIV status and 1.2 million died from HIV-related causes in 2014 this around 3,300 dying every day.

He said that HIV prevalence is low in Afghanistan and HIV epidemic is concentrated among specific groups especially injected group.

This year the World HIV Day theme is “HIV Treatment for All”. Peeperkorn said that too many people still lack access to comprehensive HIV treatment and prevention services in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“Strengthening HIV testing methods, expanding the availability of treatment options and increasing the number of health centers providing anti-retroviral therapy are crucial measures that need to be taken to stop the HIV epidemic. We must continue our efforts to ensure that those most at risk of contracting HIV receive prevention and treatment services,” he said.

He said that one of the targets of the newly-launched global Sustainable Development Goal is to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, adding that to reach this goal “we need to translate commitments into action”.

World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and show their support for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day was observed for the first time in 1988.