ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan may have been struggling to sort out their differences on how to fight terrorism, but the two estranged neighbours appear to be on the same page when it comes to health issues facing the nationals of the two countries.
After their collaboration to fight against polio, Islamabad and Kabul are now making efforts to strengthen their collaboration in controlling and preventing one of the deadliest communicable diseases, HIV/AIDs, it has been learnt.
In this regard, an Afghan delegation came to Pakistan on a three-day visit and held meetings with their Pakistani counterparts on strategic planning framework, and technical support and exchange of information with regard to cross-border people accessing treatment services.
UNAIDS would facilitate the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) of both the countries in jointly addressing the HIV epidemic in the region.
Afghan delegation was headed by Dr Naqibullah Hamdard, National Programme manager Afghanistan, along with other health officials including Dr Samarudin Samar Zazai and Dr Ehsanullah Ehsan.
Dr Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai, National Programme Manager, NACP, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, told The Express Tribune: “NACP (Pakistan) wants its Afghan side of the programme to follow up with Afghan HIV-positive patients who were earlier under treatment in Pakistan but left without informing the authorities and their whereabouts is still unknown.”
“Pakistan has treated hundreds of Afghans with HIV positive in Peshawar, Quetta and in many other cities but the majority of them left the treatment centres without informing them and till now their whereabouts are unknown. They pose a potential threat,” he said.
Both the countries also decided to notify focal points for future communication and working to promote collaborative initiatives.
NACP in both the countries will also sign a number of MoUs based on areas of mutual interest to strengthen linkages and collaboration between the two programmes to curb and control cross-border spread of HIV.
According to the Ministry of Health, under the Pakistan NACP programme the government has so far registered 18,500 HIV positive cases.
Meanwhile, according to UNAIDS-2016 HIV estimates and Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting-2016, there are 6,900 people living with HIV/AIDs in Afghanistan. Of them 1,900 are women.