Editorial : Rehabilitation refused - Thursday, March 17, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/17/rehabilitation-refused.html

MYTHS and misinformation abound about HIV-Aids, particularly in countries with low literacy rates. Pakistan is no exception in this regard, with many believing that the disease can be ‘caught’ through a handshake or even by being near an infected person. Hepatitis C, though it doesn’t carry the stigma attached to HIV, is another ailment whose mode of transmission is poorly understood by the public at large. This is unfortunate but some small allowance can perhaps be made for ignorance or discrimination rooted in poverty and lack of education. But the same leeway cannot be given to officials in charge of healthcare facilities. As this paper reported on Tuesday, a government-run centre established in Karachi last year to treat and rehabilitate injecting drug users (IDUs) is turning away addicts who test positive for HIV or hepatitis C. And the rationale behind this policy? The pro-ject manager, for one, believes infected IDUs could spread these diseases to other patients at the rehab centre. How anyone can share syringes and inject drugs at a facility where addicts are closely monitored during the detoxification process remains a mystery. Either the staff there is not doing its job properly or the centre is being run on discriminatory lines.
By refusing to admit IDUs infected with HIV or hepatitis C, the centre is denying addicts their basic right to be treated. At the same time there is the risk that infected addicts who are rejected by the centre could, through the sharing of syringes, transmit the viruses to other IDUs. The latter may in turn unwittingly infect their spouses or other sexual partners. Addicts suffering from HIV or hepatitis C must be treated at par with other IDUs, not only for indivi-dual betterment but also to check the spread of these deadly diseases.

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