AIDS in FATA
An HIV/AIDS patient from Fata in Hayatabad Medical Complex. (PHOTO: ISLAM GUL/TRIBALPOST)

Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Patients’ number is increasing and they lack access to basic facilities. Fata’s Aids Control Program started in 2003 failed to yield fruits as patients remained dependent upon three care centers located at Bannu, Kohat, and Peshawar.

Mohmand Agency’s resident Muhammad Iqbal has two sons and two daughters. His elder son was a talented student, usually got first position in school. After matriculation, he was admitted in a collage where he became drugs-addicted due to bad friend’s company.

“My 26 years old son first became addicted to hashish, then heroine and other drugs using via injection which caused him with HIV/AIDS,’’ said  Muhammad Iqbal, retired Air Force officer who comes for taking medicine for his son from family care centre, Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar.

“Medicine is not available at Hospital in Mohmand Agency, therefore, I have to get it for two or three months from Hayatabad Medical Complex,” said Muhammad Iqbal.

Iqbal’s son was the topper of his class, infected with AIDS due to drugs in Mohmand Agency.

According to the statistics of Pakistan’s ‘National AIDS Control Programme’ (NACP), 18,868 HIV/AIDS positive cases have been registered including some 500 cases from Fata and 2,336 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Overall, 9,275 patients are provided with medicine. More than 3,000 patients infected because of using drugs via Injection.

In Fata, most of the AIDS infected persons are those who have travelled outside Pakistan, particularly to the Gulf Countries for earning livelihood.

Dr. Niaz with Islam Gul
Dr. Niaz talking to Islam Gul, Tribal Post Reporter. (PHOTO: TRIBAL POST)

Dr. Niaz, In-charge Family Care Center at Hayatabad Medical Complex told Tribal Post that Fata’s people get HIV/AIDS infection through various means in Gulf Countries. “Such people transfer it to their wives and children after they come back to their homes,” he said.

Kurram Agency’s resident, 37 years old Javed is also an AIDS infected person. After law and order situations became worse in his home-area, he went to Saudi Arabia. There, he settled and start working as a technician of electronic devices.

“After a few years in Saudi Arabia, I came back to home. I was feeling body-weakness, and did CDR-4 test at Hayatabad Medical Complex and I found that I was infected with AIDS virus. I take medicine regularly and go for treatment,” Javed told Tribal Post about his case.

It is very difficult for AIDS patients like me to come to Peshawar for treatment and medicine because there is no facility and medicine available in FATA. I am passing a normal life, driving a vehicle but I do not know what can happen to me in future,” he said and added, “Thanks God that my family, wife and four children, are safe.”

Dr. Niaz says, on initial HIV level, the patient should resort to medicine and thus he/she can pass a life of normal human being. When the disease reached to Aids level, the patient face difficulties. Adding that Aids is incurable, but medicine control its virus and not let weak immune system of human body.

“In fata, AIDS is considered a shame-stigma, but now there are such people who do not hide it and they come for CDR Test. If a man gets his test positive, he also brings his wife and children for the examination. This is a good development,” Dr. Niaz told about how much Fata’s people are aware today.

North Waziristan Agency’s Memoona bibi is HIV/AIDS patient. AIDS was transferred to her from her husband who came to know of AIDS-effects during his medical tests for getting Visa for Dubai (UAE).

No role for awareness and prevention of AIDS can be seen on part of the Fata’s AIDS Control Program

Memona Bibi said that initially their relatives’ attitude was not good towards them due to lack of awareness about AIDS. “They hated us a lot when we got affected but now their attitude is some way changed, and take care of us,” Memona told Tribal Post.

In Fata, HIV/AIDS control program initiated in 2003-2004.  But on one hand if HIV affected patients are not registering themselves, on the other hand, no role for awareness and prevention can be seen on part of the Fata’s AIDS Control Program.  All the AIDS infected persons come to the health care centers in Kohat, Bannu and mostly in Hayatabad Medical Complex Peshawar.

Dr. Durkhanai Wali is the Focal Person for Fata AIDS Control Programme (FACP). While talking to Tribal Post, she said, “First time, Rs. 147 million are allocated for controlling HIV/AIDS in Fata.  In PC-1 prepared in May this year, there are included new plans like free blood tests, awareness campaigns and training to local staff in three Agencies for taking care of already registered HIV/AIDS affected patients.” She added, “We are planning to train at least one doctor from each Agency and FR who will be the focal person of FACP who will do from prevention, diagnosis till treatment of AIDS.”

She told that many months before, 4,800 people belonging to Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan Agencies, were examined. Among them 27 persons were found AIDS effected. They were common people, and unaware of HIV/AIDS. Ironically, they had never travelled to foreign countries.

AIDS is considered a shame stigma as it is generally believed to be caused of sexual relationship

“In Fata, HIV/AIDS patients face a lot of hardships. AIDS is considered a shame stigma as it is generally believed to be caused of sexual relationship. Therefore, many patients are reluctant to their show illness,” she told Tribal Post.

Dr Durkhanai Wali further added that Fata’s people are in need of more awareness about AIDS. She said that while sitting and eating with, and even kissing an HIV/AIDS patient does not affect. Therefore, we should take care of HIV/AIDS patients’ as normal human beings, she explained.

There are hundreds of the AIDS infected persons in Fata and their number is increasing day by day. Unlike patients of the settled areas, Fata’s people use to hide their illness. The war and terror hit region is in need of attention of the government as well as national and international NGOs’ to help Fata’s people fight the scaring situation and control HIV/AIDS.

It is shocking that after 13 years, when the Fata AIDS Control Programme was launched in 2003-04, no single patient could be examined in Fata based laboratories due to lack of facilities, medicine and proper awareness.