Emergency Hotlines: LANDLINE (+63) 2 911 – 8688

Pakistan province struggles with hundreds of cases of children infected with HIV

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2019

A woman holds an HIV positive child | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

In the dusty town of Ratodero in southern Pakistan, doctors are struggling to cope with an alarming outbreak of young patients infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, with almost 700 of new cases over the past few months, most of them children.

But many of the families cannot afford proper treatment, which usually involves regular trips to Karachi for medicines.

“I have sold all my valuables for treatment,” said Tariq Ali, from Allah Dino Seelro, a small village in Ratodero, who was himself diagnosed as HIV positive last year. His sister died of AIDS and his wife and daughter are HIV positive. A nephew was diagnosed HIV positive a few days ago.

Some families like Nazeer Husain Shah, whose 16-month old infant girl was diagnosed HIV positive in February, could not fathom how the virus managed to infect their loved ones.

“At first I got furious. For me it was impossible to imagine that she was suffering from such a disease,” he said.

Officials suspect quack medical practitioners, who are widespread in poor towns and villages across Pakistan, of reusing syringes and providing improperly screened blood transfusions.

“He (doctor) used to apply same drip on fifty children without changing the needle,” said Imitaz Ali, a father who lost his 14-month old daughter while his two children were tested HIV positive. Unable to seek proper medical help, he blamed a quack practitioner for treating the children “like animals”.

From April 25 to May 25, 2019, federal health ministry officials say 681 people have tested positive for HIV, of whom 537 were children.

“This is a tip of the iceberg,” Dr Imran Akbar Arbani said in his small clinic, crowded with patients, “this (number) could be in the thousands, not hundreds,” he added.

Pakistani officials estimate the country has some 163,000 HIV and AIDS patients, of whom only 25,000 are registered with the provincial and federal AIDS control programs, according to Zafar Mirza, the prime minister’s adviser on health

But the experience of medical workers in Ratodero, in Larkana, the base of the powerful Bhutto political dynasty in Sindh province, suggest that the real numbers may be unknown.

The federal government has asked for help from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Foreign medical teams are in the country and the government has ordered 50,000 HIV kits and is setting up three treatment centres around Larkana.

The cases underline the dire state of healthcare in Pakistan, a nation of 208 million where almost a third of the population lives on under $3.20 a day and where many people cannot afford expensive tests or medicines. (REUTERS)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman fuel security, oil supply fears

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Fire burning on oil tanker at sea | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday (June 13) in the Gulf of Oman left one ablaze and both adrift, shipping firms said, driving oil prices up 4 percent over worries about Middle East supplies.

The Front Altair was on fire in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after an explosion that a source blamed on a magnetic mine. The crew of the Norwegian vessel were picked up by a vessel in the area and passed to an Iranian rescue boat.

A second Japanese-owned tanker was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. The crew were also picked up.

The attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies. (REUTERS)

Tags: , ,

Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport attacked by Yemen’s Houthi group

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

The Saudi-led military coalition vowed to respond firmly to a missile attack by Yemeni Houthi forces on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday (June 12) that wounded 26 people.

The coalition said a projectile hit the arrivals hall at Abha airport, causing material damage.

Three women and two children were among the wounded, who were of Saudi, Yemeni and Indian nationalities, it said in a statement on Thursday (June 13).

Meanwhile, planes from the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen bombed areas around the capital Sanaa on Thursday, residents and the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV said.

The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition has been battling the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015 when it intervened to try to restore the internationally recognized government that was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014. (REUTERS)

Tags: , , ,

Hong Kong protesters condemn ‘unreasonable’ police violence

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Police gathered in Tamar Park | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

Hong Kong demonstrators who experienced tear gas when the anti-extradition protest turned violent said on Thursday (June 13) that they condemned the ‘unreasonable’ use of force by the police.

Hundreds of people remained on the streets to protest a planned extradition law with mainland China, a day after police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of skirmishes to clear demonstrators from the legislature, with officials saying 72 people had been admitted to hospital by 10 p.m.

Uniformed police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways in Hong Kong’s financial district on Thursday, while a long row of police vans was parked nearby.

Plainclothes police officers checked commuters’ identity papers as a massive clean-up was underway, clearing streets of debris, like broken umbrellas used by protesters to protect themselves and broken baricades, left from the violent clashes.

Protesters, some still wearing face masks and goggles in case police once again use tear gas, were joined by students during the day.

But their numbers eased off later to a few hundred, after a Legislative Council meeting to discuss the extradition bill was postponed. (REUTERS)

Tags: , , ,