8 February 2010Although Pakistan has a plan of action to tackle HIV and AIDS, the country is facing a lack of resources that could jeopardize an effective and timely response to the epidemic, according to the lead United Nations agency on the issue. “Pakistan has made substantial progress over recent years, including in addressing sensitive social issues and increasingly involving people living with HIV in the forefront of the AIDS response,” says Oussama Tawil, Country Coordinator for the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “However, it is now critical that a collective effort be made to sustain the momentum in these life-saving measures.”According to UNAIDS, the South Asian nation has an HIV prevalence rate of less than 0.1 per cent among its general population. But overall prevalence among injecting drug users has risen steadily from 10.8 per cent in 2005 to nearly 21 per cent in 2008. There are an estimated 91,000 injecting drug users in Pakistan of which nearly one in four in large urban settings are infected with HIV, notes the agency.The country needs $293 million over five years to implement its national action plan, which includes measures to urgently address the rising levels of HIV infection amongst injecting drug users and other segments of society through sexual transmission and avoid a spill-over to the general population. During 2006-2007, AIDS expenditure totalled nearly $29.7 million, with prevention-related activities having been allocated the biggest share – 61 per cent. Despite the resources made available by the World Bank, bilateral donors and the Government, “these funds are insufficient to cover the current needs and to create a sustainable long-term capacity to address the HIV response in the future,” states UNAIDS. The agency warns that HIV/AIDS could have a severe impact in certain communities over the coming decade. “Financial and human resources are urgently needed to scale-up the provision of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services in order to have a definite impact on the HIV epidemic and to mitigate its social and health consequences,” UNAIDS said.