PIMS unable to deal with HIV/AIDS patients

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Although the world is all set to mark the ‘World AIDS Day 2011’ today (December 1), the HIV/AIDS Department at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) faces the shortage of doctors to treat the 1,160 registered patients as there are only two doctors while the job contract of one of them is going to expire on 30th of this month. The devolution of Ministry of Health has affected the treatment facilities badly at the federal level as even the PIMS, a major government-run hospital, does not have sufficient number of doctors to treat the AIDS patient effectively.
An official told Pakistan Today that initially, there were three doctors but one of them was sponsored by the UNICEF, but she left the job after her contract expired on Wednesday (November 30), while the term of another doctor, sponsored by the National HIV/AIDS Control Programme, would end on December 30; therefore, she was also getting prepared to leave as there were no chances of contract renewal, despite several attempts.
When contacted, Dr Rizwan Qazi, the head of HIV/AIDS Department, said after the devolution process, the things were not clear yet and their department had also been affected badly.
“Before the devolution of Health Ministry, we were working in a coordinated system, as the ministry was playing the role of a supervisory body and coordinating between all stakeholders like WHO, UNICEF and national programme but, unfortunately, the entire system is now shattered and the patients have to suffer ultimately.”
He lamented that they were facing the shortage of working force and he was the only doctor working on regular basis, whereas his two colleagues were working on contracts.
One had already left the hospital after her contract got expired and another would leave this month. “No one works with motivation when they do not have job security,” he added.
Dr Rizwan said the quality of treatment was also affected after the devolution, adding that the strength of other staff like councillors, trained nurses and supporting staff was also unsatisfactory and they could see no future in the department.
While talking about the AIDS patients he said it was difficult to treat the drug addicted patients as they did complete the process, adding that the irregular treatment resulted in manifold increase in drug resistance and they consulted again when their condition worsened.
On the other hand, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a message on this special day to highlight the importance of healthcare providers in dealing with patients who have to face discrimination in accessing health services.
The message said stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and those at increased risk of HIV transmission still existed to varying degree across the region.
“Of particular concern are stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings and by healthcare workers. These are major impediments when it comes to encouraging stigmatised population groups to seek and access health services and adhere to health interventions,” the message said.
WHO Regional Director Dr Hussein A Gezairy said that the men, women and children living with HIV in dire need of surgery had been denied this right. “Even with non-invasive procedures, some healthcare workers have refused to care for people living with HIV. Public and institutional measures have enacted mandatory HIV testing on individuals upon their admission to healthcare services, often resulting in denial of access to those who test positive, unnecessary isolation or, at the least, gossip,” he said.
He said that was reason why the regional theme for the World AIDS Campaign 2011 was “Stigma and Discrimination in Health Care Settings”.